Scorers get the headlines, but to be successful, those same scorers need other players to do the dirty work—digging the puck out of the corner, forechecking and taking a pounding to get the scorers the puck.Cody Eakin
has proven that he has the ability to fill both roles.
Eakin is an elite scorer in the Western Hockey League, so good that he was recently acquired by the Kootenay Ice in exchange for five players and three draft picks. He should make his Ice debut tonight in Spokane after recovering from a hand injury.
During the IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship in Buffalo Eakin proved his versatility. Canada likely wouldn’t have won the silver medal without him and linemates Casey Cizikas and Carter Ashton.
Washington’s third-round selection in the 2009 Entry Draft (85th overall), Eakin is in his fourth season in the WHL, but spent three weeks around the New Year with Team Canada.
Though he was named Canada’s Best Player in the gold medal game, he was cast in more of a checking role, which was an adjustment considering his background in the WHL, where he starred for the Swift Current Broncos before the trade.
In Canada’s quarterfinal game against Switzerland, Eakin forced a turnover in the offensive zone on the forecheck and then dug the puck out of corner. A pass to teammate Louis Leblanc in the slot resulted in their game-clinching third goal and pushed them into the tournament semi-finals.
“Cody is a guy who can go get the puck,” Canada teammate Marcus Foligno said. “We roll four lines and he knows his role and it’s fun to play with him.”
The recipient of Eakin’s work in the quarterfinal game, Leblanc, said, “It was a great pass to the slot. We’ve played quite a few times together at summer camps so there is a little chemistry between us.”
Though fighting through his hand injury during the tournament, Eakin’s work on the penalty kill and forecheck was lauded, especially during Canada’s tournament-opening 6-3 win over Russia.
“You can’t take any time off and I thought we were working hard keeping it down low and creating chances off of that,” Eakin said. “I think everyone here has a role on the team and I’m playing with two guys who can create energy for the guys on the forecheck, so I think we’re doing a good job at what we’re supposed to do.”
“We all have the same mentality and we catch a lot of guys off guard.”
Eakin has hockey bloodlines with his father, Grant, having played professional hockey with six different teams and reaching the International League level with Dayton, Saginaw and Kalamazoo. His uncle Bruce played for Canada at the 1982 World Junior Championship.
After his junior season ended last season, Eakin was able to get his first taste of professional hockey when he joined Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey for four regular-season games and five playoff contests. That included four games in the Calder Cup Finals, which the Bears won.
“I think that helped my game and I’ve definitely learned how to compete against guys who are stronger and bigger,” said Eakin. “Everyone here (at the junior tournament) is an elite player kind of like they were in the playoffs, so I don’t feel out of the loop here with the competition.”
As one NHL team president said in a radio interview during the World Junior tournament, “afterward all of these guys go back to their regular teams a different person and a better player.”
After the blockbuster trade, Eakin heads to a new team – but should be an even more well rounded player thanks to the experience.