Unorthodox road to NHL leads Curran to San Diego

Photo: Jon Hayt

by Matt Weller | AHL On The Beat

For new San Diego Gulls defenseman Kodie Curran, last Friday night’s debut performance represented both a culmination of a long road and the beginning of a new journey.

Curran scored his first career American Hockey League goal in San Diego’s season-opening win over the Bakersfield Condors, almost six years after his professional debut. Quick to praise his teammates for putting him in the position to score, Curran acknowledged what the moment meant to him.

“It’s emotional for me just because of the past to get here,” he said. “I just try to always make the most of every opportunity – so to see that one go in was a lot of hard work paid off.”

The Calgary, Alta., native first skated in the AHL in 2015, appearing in 20 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack over parts of two seasons before taking his trade overseas.

Since then, the 31-year-old rearguard established himself as one of Europe’s most prolific players, winning league championships in Denmark and Norway as well as being named the most valuable player and top defenseman of the Swedish Hockey League last season.

“Heading overseas was the best decision I ever made,” Curran explained. “I fell back in love with the game. I loved coming to the rink. It was such a great culture that I got into. I play my best hockey when I’m looked at to perform every night. It gives you a chance to really hone in on what you need to get better at.”

The left-handed defenseman signed a two-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks on June 2, 2020. A four-time double-digit goal scorer during his time in Europe, Curran brings offensive skill and savvy to the Gulls blueline.

“He’s a patient guy,” said San Diego head coach Kevin Dineen. “When he gets the puck on his stick, he gets a chance to take a look, analyze and make plays from there. In saying that, that has a bit of European flair to it. When you’re on the bigger ice surface, you have more time to make plays. You can see the hockey sense there. We’re looking to start putting that into fifth gear and have him motor at that speed all the time.”

After playing over 200 games overseas, Curran dove head first into adjusting his game to fit the North American style.

“He’s a guy that’s had high expectations in terms of the success he had in Sweden,” said Gulls assistant coach David Urquhart. “It does take time, understanding that he is coming over and the North American style of game is different than it is over there. I think he’s adjusted well. He’s going to get better and more comfortable every game we see him play.”

While he remains concentrated on his ultimate goal – a spot on the Anaheim Ducks roster – Curran is taking time to enjoy the moment and savor his opportunity with San Diego.

“I just want to play, wherever that may be,” the defenseman said. “I love this game so much; it doesn’t matter where I’m playing. Obviously, the goal is to play in the NHL, that’s why everyone’s here, but wherever I am, I’m fully committed. I’m here to make a hockey club.”

That team-first mentality is evident to those around him.

“Taking it step by step and being in the moment, that was one of the first things that stood out the first time I talked to him,” said Urquhart. “That’s really important to him, not getting caught up in anything else and being in the moment here, taking each day as an individual day. Him being here is an opportunity to sharpen those skills, getting the timing right, so that when he does make the step to the NHL, everything will be ready to go.”

Until then, Curran plans to take it one day at a time.

“When my time comes, I’m confident that I’ll take the step and make the most of my opportunity.”