Anyone who spends his summers sweating through Gary Roberts’ high-performance workouts is either a dedicated athlete or a fan of pain. Cody Hodgson doesn’t seem masochistic so he must want to be a better hockey player.

The Buffalo Sabres certainly think so. They’ve rewarded the 23-year-old with a six-year $25.5 million contract. They’ve made him their unquestioned No. 1 center. They’re prepared to live with his mistakes while believing the long-term payoff will be worth the miscues.

“When they have that much faith in you you want to try that much harder and make sure you reward them for that opportunity” Hodgson said Thursday on the opening day of training camp and the first day of his contract. “I think it’s going to be a good relationship going forward. Six years seems like a long time but I know it will fly by talking with the other guys. I just have to make the most of it.”

Hodgson’s deal and spot on the depth chart thrust him into the role of leading man for the Sabres. There will be times he’s ready especially offensively. There will be times he’s overmatched especially defensively.

“He’s one of those players that in the future is going to be a leader for us” coach Ron Rolston said in First Niagara Center. “Sometimes we forget he is a younger player and those things he’s learning.

“You can see his natural talent and he’s been able to do that for a long time. That’s very easy for him. Now as he progresses and he’s with us for a long time now it’s finding the purpose in things. Part of that for him is being a more well-rounded player so he can help us win a Stanley Cup down the road. That’s his job now.”

The Sabres are counting on Hodgson eventually to be their go-to guy. They’ve observed his work ethic and believe he can be a star when his learning curve reaches the top.

“He wants to be counted on” General Manager Darcy Regier said. “He wants to be recognized in a leadership position. He wants the opportunity to be in positions where you can make a difference.”

Hodgson is exactly where he wanted to be after asking out of Vancouver. He was stuck behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler on the depth chart and wanted a bigger role somewhere. He’s got it.