Take one look at Caps prospect Cody Eakin off the ice, and your first thought would probably be something along the lines of “he plays hockey?” The diminutive center looks like he would be more at home surfing or skiing, but he certainly does not look like possibly the most highly-touted prospect at Development Camp and one of the best in the entire league. Surprise! He is. Eakin is, in fact, so highly regarded that he was traded this past winter in Major Junior from the Swift Current Broncos to the Kootenay Ice for five players and three draft picks. In short, big things are expected of him, and many Caps fans want to see him on the roster this fall, when he is expected to turn pro.
Some prospects may let all of the hype get to them, and wait for the full training camp in September to actually try. But Eakin, all in all, seems oblivious to the hype surrounding him, and is working as such. ”It starts now,” he said Monday. ”I have to be prepared for today and the rest of the week, and the carry it over and work hard in the summer.” That kind of work ethic is very impressive for a 20 year-old, and it showed the kind of hard working attitude that is so uncommon among most top prospects these days. Things are not handed to you, and it sure seems like Eakin knows that.
In addition, there is no doubt that he is one of only two or three players who has a realistic chance to make the opening night roster, and one of only two forwards with a chance at cracking what has become an experienced and veteran top 12. Eakin knows this, and you can see it in his play so far, as well as what he said after practice: “I think the maturity of my game has increased. [Last year] I played a lot of hockey and got a a lot of opportunity, and I think that can translate over to the game I need to play if I were to play here.” The young sparkplug is battling away in corners, using his speed to create, and overall just playing an annoying and effective game so far. And the best part? To him, it’s no big deal. Trust me, that’s what Bruce Boudreau wants to see.
Oh, and the pressure of being the centerpiece in one of the biggest trades in the history of the WHL? No such thing. ”I think it was healthy pressure, you know, they [Kootenay] like the way I play and they didn’t ask me to change my game or anything. I went in there and played a two-way game, and I think the opportunity I got was huge. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.” No expectations, you say? Man, I wish all prospects had this guy’s ability to block out excess stuff and just do their thing. Anton Gustafsson ring a bell? Bueller? No? Too soon? Yeah, I thought so.
This guy is a keeper, and his future is almost as bright as his (and my) red hair. What a job by George McPhee and his staff.