Tucker Hodgson was the Fargo Force's final draft pick in the spring of 2020. He went in the 21st round, No. 314 overall in the United States Hockey League draft. Only four players went after him.
He was not expected to make Fargo's roster this season and signed a tender with Minot in the North American Hockey League. But Hodgson played well enough in Fargo's spring tryout camp to earn an invite to try out again in the fall.
"He was one of 11 defensemen that came back in the fall," Fargo coach Pierre Paul Lamoureux said. "He started at probably No. 11 and worked his way into the top eight, top seven, top six and now he's playing a top-four role for us.
"He's a kid that has maximized his ability level. He's continuing to get better. That's the biggest thing. He's probably one of the hardest workers we've had. He works at his game every day. His work ethic and competitive drive have helped him pass people along the way."
In less than a year, Hodgson went from 21st-round USHL pick to a college prospect.
This weekend, the 6-foot-2, 189-pound defenseman made his college commitment to Bentley University.
"Academics were there," Hodgson said. "I want to study finance and obviously Bentley is a great financial institution. The hockey opportunities, I believe, are there for me. And at the end of the day, they were able to give a good scholarship. All of that combined made Bentley a really good option for me."
Hodgson will begin attending Bentley in the fall.
"Some other schools were looking at me and showing interest," Hodgson said. "Bentley reached out a little bit ago. I was talking with these schools and gathering as much info as I could. At the end of the day, I looked at the pros and cons and I felt like Bentley was the right choice for me and I took it."
Bentley, which plays in Atlantic Hockey, became a Division-I program in 1999. It just opened a new on-campus arena in Waltham, Mass., in 2018. It seats slightly more than 2,000 fans.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hodgson was unable to go on a campus visit, but he held Zoom meetings with the coaching staff and researched the school and hockey program online.
"I've never personally been to Boston before," Hodgson said. "To experience something new like that is terrific."
Hodgson's game has grown considerably throughout the years.
He spent three seasons with Grand Forks Central, becoming a full-time varsity player as a sophomore and junior. The Knights won North Dakota boys hockey state championships in all three seasons he played -- 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Hodgson had seven assists as a sophomore. He increased his offensive production to six goals, 21 points as a junior. Last season, as a senior, he played for the Steinbach Pistons in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, tallying nine assists in 51 games.
"I've really grown my speed and playmaking ability," Hodgson said. "Overall, my offensive skill is still something that needs to be improved, but I've made great strides in that over the years. I'm constantly growing. There's still room to grow. I feel like I will if I keep at it."
Hodgson has played in all 48 games this season for Fargo, which sits in second place in the Western Conference. Hodgson has four assists and is plus-11.
"It's exciting to see a kid like Tucker take the path he has," Lamoureux said. "A lot of kids in his shoes get discouraged and quit.
"We drafted him and he earned his way onto our team with no promises. He made it really hard for us to say no, and really hard for us to move on from him. He went from zero schools having interest to a lot of schools recruiting him and watching him. It's exciting. Most kids who get in that situation don't want to grind."
Hodgson thanked people in Grand Forks who helped him grow his game.
"So much work has gone into it the past couple years," Hodgson said. "I can't express enough gratitude for all the people in town -- Deuce (Ryan LaDouceur), Eli (Rosendahl), (Jason) Ulmer, the guys at EXOS like Ammo (Anthony Morando). . . the gratitude I have for them for the way they've helped me in my journey is something I want to express."