Ducks’ Kodie Curran appreciates long road to the NHL

Kodie Curran was on the phone Friday, calling from his home in Calgary with a story to share. It was no ordinary tale, but one of good old-fashion stubbornness mixed with lessons learned and an appreciation for how lengthy and difficult his journey has been.

“It’s the type of person I am,” he said.

Curran, a 30-year-old defenseman, signed his first NHL contract Monday, becoming a member of the rebuilding Ducks after playing for four seasons in Europe, after two seasons as an undrafted player in the AHL and ECHL, after five seasons of playing collegiate hockey in his hometown of Calgary.

He could have given up many times and made an easier life choice. That he didn’t, that he kept skating and kept searching for ways to improve himself and his game, says all you need to know about him and why the Ducks signed him to a two-year, $2-million contract.

“I feel in love with the game of hockey again,” he said of his four seasons in Europe.

Curran described himself as a “toe-in, toe-out,” kind of a person before he left North America.

“Then I went all-in,” he said.

Curran hired a personal trainer, changed his diet and rededicated himself to his craft. The dividends began to pay off in Denmark and then in Norway. But it wasn’t until he signed with Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League in 2018-19 that he began to attract significant notice from NHL teams, including the Ducks.

Jan-Ake Danielson, the Ducks’ head European scout, encouraged general manager Bob Murray to come have a look for himself, after sending glowing reports about Curran’s improved play, starting near the end of 2018-19. Murray got an eyeful when seeing him play in person this past season.

“I thought, ‘Oh, wow, what the hell has he been doing his whole life?’” Murray said.

Curran was named the league’s MVP after scoring 49 points, including 12 goals, in 48 games in 2019-20. He led the league’s defensemen in points and assists in his second season with Rogle, which was third in the standings when the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Curran is a late bloomer,” Murray said. “We’ve known about him for years and his improvement over the last couple of years in the Swedish Hockey League. You saw the numbers and awards he’s won. We’re quite excited. I expect some really good competition on defense (next season).”

The Ducks’ organizational depth on defense had been depleted over the past few seasons, including at least one significant trade that backfired on Murray, who sent up-and-coming defenseman Marcus Pettersson to the Pittsburgh Penguins for right wing Daniel Sprong on Dec. 3, 2018.

Murray then flipped Sprong to the Washington Capitals for young defenseman Christian Djoos, after it became apparent that Sprong, for all his offensive skills, didn’t fit into the Ducks’ system. Djoos then signed a one-season, $1-million contract extension May 6.

“I think I’m going to help Anaheim,” Curran said when asked about his role with the Ducks and how he might best lift a team that struggled to score and had the NHL’s second-worst power play in 2019-20. “I can help by bringing offense to the blue line. I think it’s going to be a great fit.”

Asked to describe his game further, he said he was “an exciting player to watch.” He said he was an offensive-minded defenseman who paid special attention to defending his own end of the ice. He said he was a strong playmaker who could quarterback their power-play unit.

Curran also is familiar with the Ducks’ organization because of his friendship with defenseman Hampus Lindholm, a workout partner in Sweden during recent offseasons. Curran said he was “constantly learning” from Lindholm while acting “like an annoying little brother.”

“I know I haven’t done it the way you’re supposed to do it,” Curran said of his long trek to the NHL. “I think I’ve always persevered. I’ve always tried to find positives in a situation. I did it in Rogle and I built momentum and elevated my game. That explains who I am and how I play. I don’t want to take anything away from the way other guys got where they are. But I think I appreciate it a lot more.”

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