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Oilers coach Eakins has developed young talent

by Connor Mellas

Before forward Nazem Kadri became a key member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he played for Dallas Eakins with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. The relationship wasn't always a great one, but Kadri knows he's better for having had it.


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"Dallas Eakins and me really beared down, and he stuck with me the whole way, and that's what you get -- results," Kadri told the Toronto Sun. "It may have taken a couple of years -- a long couple of years -- but it's worth it in the end."

It's those kinds of results that made Eakins so appealing to NHL teams, and why he was hired Monday as coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

Eakins had a successful four-season run with the Marlies, posting a 157-114-41 record and guiding the team to the playoffs the last two seasons, including the Calder Cup Final in 2012. More than wins or losses, however, was the fact so many of his players turned into key performers this season for a Maple Leafs team that went to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2004.

During the 2012-13 season, Eakins graduated 11 prospects to the NHL. Young Maple Leafs stars Kadri, defenseman Jake Gardiner and goaltender James Reimer progressed through Eakins' system, benefiting from his influence.

"All I can say is that if he goes to Edmonton, those Oilers players are getting a great coach," Gardiner told the Toronto Sun prior to Eakins' hiring by Edmonton. "With Dallas, you always know where you stand. He teaches you about the game. And he treats his players like adults."

The fit in Edmonton may be perfect. Ripe with young talent, the Oilers have a number of core players -- forwards Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov and defenseman Justin Schultz, among others -- that need a steady hand to further their development.

As was shown in Toronto, it's a role Eakins is adept at playing.

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