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Team Orr wins physical Prospects Game

Wednesday, 01.14.2009 / 10:12 PM / Prospects

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"You want to be an all-round player.  You can't just bring one thing to the table. I like to stir it up a bit and if there's a hit I'm going to make it."
-- Cody Eakin

OSHAWA, Ont. -- There may have been all stars on the ice, but this wasn't your usual all-star game. There were pushes, shoves and hits aplenty as 40 of the best prospects for the 2009 Entry Draft squared off Wednesday night in the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game at General Motors Centre.

The most memorable hit might be one John Tavares regrets. The top-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings and the projected top choice for June's selection process missed the last 12 minutes of the game after being slammed into the end boards.

Tavares skated off the ice under his own power with a right shoulder injury, slamming his stick in frustration with his left hand as he skated off. Tavares skipped the post-game ceremonies and did not speak to the media, but a reporter saw him leaving the arena in a car and signing autographs with his right hand.

As for the game, Team Orr topped Team Cherry 6-1 behind two goals each from Swift Current's Cody Eakin and Quebec's David Gilbert, and strong goaltending from Cape Breton's Olivier Roy and Scott Stajcer of the Owen Sound Attack.

Roy, who started the game, stopping 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the first period and a half, and then Stajcer did the rest, stopping all 26 shots he faced.

Spokane Chiefs defenseman Jared Cowen had a pair of assists for Team Orr, and Guelph's Taylor Beck and Spokane's Levko Koper had goals.

The Victoriaville Tigres' Andrej Nestrasil had Team Cherry's goal.

Eakin was ranked No. 52 in Central Scouting's midterm rankings, but it was Eakin, rather than his linemate Tavares, who was the offensive star of the game.

Offense wasn't all Eakin supplied. While he may be only 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, he had no hesitation in mixing it up with Zack Kassian, the 6-2, 212-pound Peterborough Petes power forward. He also didn't hesitate to jump to Tavares' aid when Taylor Doherty, the 6-6, 217-pound Kingston Frontenacs defenseman, drilled Tavares into the end boards early in the third.

The goals and the physical play define Eakin's game.

"You want to be an all-round player," Eakin said. "You can't just bring one thing to the table. I like to stir it up a bit and if there's a hit I'm going to make it."

He may like stirring it up a bit too much; he's been dogged by injuries, including a concussion to start this season. In 28 games, he has 16 goals and 21 points for the Broncos.

"I had a concussion to start the year and I had a high ankle sprain," Eakin said. "I took the time and recovered. While I was out I worked on the mental part of the game, what I could do out there. I came back stronger than ever with a little bit of maturity in the game so I don't get hurt again."

The injuries also have limited the scouts' abilities to see him in action. But when they have seen him, they've been pleased.

"He really knows when to hit the holes and he's pretty quick," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He also plays with an edge. He's a little feisty, so that's a nice side to his game.

"You can't have enough of those type of guys on your team. It's great having smaller guys who play bigger. I think it lifts up the whole team they play for. Those kind of guys, they're so competitive, they usually rise to the occasion in big games."

Eakin certainly lifted his play for the NHL scouts in attendance.

Kootenay's Brayden McNabb flipped a backhander into the Team Cherry zone where Eakin, coming down the right side, played it with his backhand. He spun, switched the puck to his forehand and fired a wrister over the glove of his junior teammate, goalie Nathan Lieuwen, to open the scoring at 15:55.

 
 
It was the breakthrough Team Orr needed. Coach Bobby Orr's troops were outshot 9-0 over the first 13 minutes of the game, then scored three times before the period ended.

"We talked before the game and I said to our guys we had to hang on the first 10 minutes because I know they'll be coming out at us," Orr said. "I thought our goaltending in that first period was outstanding. After about 12 minutes, 15 minutes, I thought our team played really well. I'm very happy with the win and I'm happy with the kids. They all showed their stuff tonight. It was a great night for them".

Beck made it 2-0 for Team Orr when he avoided a hit in the Team Cherry zone and threw the puck at the net, where it glanced off a player and into Lieuwen, who juggled it and dropped it behind the goal line at 18:21.

Koper made it 3-0 with Team Cherry's third goal on just six shots. Erie's Ryan O'Reilly slid a pass out of traffic to Koper in the high slot and he wristed a shot past Lieuwen at 19:04.

Nestrasil banged in the rebound of a shot by Brampton's Matt Duchene at 19:29 for Team Cherry's lone goal of the period.

"I thought our team played really well. I'm very happy with the win and I'm happy with the kids. They all showed their stuff tonight. It was a great night for them." -- Bobby Orr
Team Orr kept the pressure on early in the second and capitalized when Gilbert scored shorthanded off a turnover in front of the Team Cherry net at 5:46.

Eakin's second of the night made it 5-1. He skated down the right side, found some empty space while the defense collapsed on Tavares and scored at 9:00.

Gilbert closed the scoring with his second of the night. He rushed a Cowen pass down the right side, cut to the net and pushed the puck under Saginaw's Edward Pasquale at 8:16 to make it 6-1.

Beyond the goals, shots and saves was some very physical play. The glass was rattling most of the night, and Tavares and Doherty seemed to wage their own personal battle each time they were on the ice. They exchanged slashes after the horn to end the first period, and both started the second in the penalty box. Later, Doherty drilled Tavares into the end boards and earned a boarding minor.

The biggest hit of the night came when Shawinigan defenseman Charles-Olivier Roussel for Team Orr caught Vancouver's Evander Kane coming across the middle of the offensive zone with his head down.

Notes:
Eakin was named Player of the Game for Team Orr, while Pasquale, who stopped 20 of 21 shots, was Player of the Game for Team Cherry. … Orr received a loud ovation from the fans when he was introduced. Orr played his junior hockey in Oshawa, and his No. 2 has been retired by the team. … Attendance was 5,510 at General Motors Centre, the home of the Oshawa Generals.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.


Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp