The sky is the limit for Steven Hodges no one knows that better than the Victoria Royals or the Florida Panthers.
Entering his third season with the Royals, the 18-year-old centre is coming off a campaign in which he scored 21 goals and added 25 assists after a rookie year in which he tallied five times and collected six assists with the organization, formerly based in Chiliwack.
Based on those progressions, the six-foot, 185-pounder should be in for a productive 2012-13 Western Hockey League season.
Sure, 30 sounds good, the Yellowknife native said with a smile when quizzed as to how many goals hes targeting this season.
Of course, setting such a lofty number comes with its pressures, but Hodgess abilities are clear. The third-round draft pick of the Panthers this summer, Hodgess talents are now blossoming.
Hes a dynamic player, a skilled guy and were going to look for him to be a real solid two-way player for us, said Royals head coach Dave Lowry, who played five of his 19 NHL seasons in Florida and led the Panthers to the Stanley Cup final in 1996 with 10 goals and seven assists in 22 post-season games.
Were looking for his game to evolve, added Lowry. Obviously, he has aspirations of being a pro player, but there are certain things that hes going to have to do to get an opportunity. Offence is one of them, but thats not the only thing Im looking for from him. Im looking for him to be a complete player. A guy who competes every night and is a leader.
And thats exactly what Hodges aspires to be as he continues the process of becoming a pro prospect.
Its not necessarily about the goals and assists. Those things will come with hard work, said Hodges, who is currently out day-to-day after blocking a shot in his one pre-season game. Its, more importantly, about winning.
You have to have everybody contributing. Scoring is nice and it gives you confidence, but at the end of the day, it comes down to teamwork.
Having played most of last season on a line with Logan Nelson and Jamie Crooks, Hodges distributed the puck to forwards capable of producing numbers. Crooks led the team in scoring with 37 goals and 30 assists, while Nelson selected in the fifth round by the Buffalo Sabres had 23 goal and 39 assists.
Its nice playing with those guys, said Hodges. I like playing with Nellie because hes such a skilled guy very under-rated. And Crooksie, we find each other all the time. I think of myself more of a passer on the line. They can both bury pucks and theyre both top snipers in this league.
Whether Lowry puts all his eggs in one basket remains to be seen.
Were going to move guys around and try and find chemistry, said Lowry. If it has to be all those guys on one line, then thats the way itll be. But we know we have some skill and depth up front.
Hodges will also be thrown into the mix when it comes down to selecting captains. That will eventually sort itself out, said Lowry.
Hodges participated in a six-day development camp in Sunrise, Florida, after he was drafted by the Panthers.
Yes, we do have something in common, Lowry said. South Florida was a great place to play; he knows that. He was down there for development camp; hes seen how the organization treats their players.
LOOSE PUCKS: The Royals traded defenceman Brodie Clowes on Wednesday to the Tri-City Americans in exchange for a fifth-round selection in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. . . . Victoria faces Vancouver in exhibition play away on Friday (5 p.m.) and at home Saturday afternoon at 2.
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