When the Washington Capitals drafted Cody Eakin in the third round with the 85th pick of the 2009 NHL Draft the words former Calgary Flames GM Craig Button, a man who selected star players Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow, and Marty Turco while he was a scout with the Dallas Stars, used to describe the young forward from Winnipeg got my attention. Button said Eakin was” a dynamic player who is quick and fast and doesn’t back down from anyone.” TSN’s Bob McKenzie then added that Eakin had “Darren Helm-like speed.” Pretty high compliments, if you ask me, for a player taken in round three.
Eakin then backed up that praise with a super 2009-10 season with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League notching 47 goals and 44 assists in 70 games. He also added 71 penalty minutes, indicating that Button was indeed correct about the toughness the 5′ 11″ and 179 lbs. forward possesses. When Swift Current was knocked out early in the WHL playoffs, Caps GM George McPhee and Bears President/GM Doug Yingst brought Eakin to Chocolatetown for an end of the regular season look. Cody notched two goals in four games and he was asked to stick around for the post season. However, as series after series went by, the young forward continued to be a healthy scratch and during the Manchester series he was sent home, only to be recalled right away when the Bears were hit with some injuries, most notably to forward Andrew Gordon.
Clearly, Eakin made the most he could of an opportunity and #34 managed to play in five post season games after coming back to the land of chocolate: the series clincher against the Monarchs in the Eastern Conference Finals, and then games one, four, five, and six of the Calder Cup Finals. He didn’t notch a point, but as the series progressed, it seemed to me that Cody was improving and as a result he might of received his highest amount of ice time in the Cup winning tilt (the AHL does not keep official ice times as it is done in the NHL). Eakin’s great first stride and speed were clearly apparent and he did not seem to be physically outmatched, for the most part. Washington Capitals fans already know a lot about top propsects, and likely graduates to the big club in September, in Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and Michal Neuvirth. So getting to see Eakin play and progress while the Bears were winning their second straight Calder Cup, and third in five years, was an added bonus for all Caps and Bears fans.
I caught up with Eakin on the Giant Center ice during the amazing AHL Championship celebration and here is a transcript of our conversation:
WNST: Tell me what it is like to just come up from Juniors and win a Calder Cup.
Eakin: I just turned 19, it is unbelievable, such a great team, and it is just such an amazing thing to be a part of in my situation.
WNST: Tell me a little bit about your year and your progression this season in the WHL and then AHL.
Eakin: Unbelievable year, things just went the right direction for me team wise, play wise, leadership, and I think, maturity. I think that was a huge part of my game this year. There are tons of new experiences and I think I did pretty well. Obviously the chance to come up here and play in a Calder Cup Final and win the Calder Cup, right now is just unbelievable. This place and this team is something I’ll never forget.
WNST: How did your team, Swift Current, do this season?
Eakin: It was tough, we were fighting for a playoff spot at the end but we managed to pull in, but we had a short finish. But those things happen and you hope to learn from it. [Note: Swift Current was swept in the opening round of the WHL playoffs by the Brandon Wheat Kings, who finished second in the 2010 Memorial Cup. Eakin had a goal and an assist in those four games.]
WNST: Is one of your goals to mature physically this summer and get stronger?
Eakin: Oh yeah, definitely. It is a big summer for me and I have to work hard off the ice. I think another year in juniors, hopefully have the captaincy next year, it’s going to be a strong year and I think we are going to have a really good team.
WNST: How much confidence did you gain by being thrown into such an important series as the Calder Cup Finals?
Eakin: It’s different for me. I thought my summer had started when I got sent home but nothing’s changed like they always say, and to come back up here and do this, it’s just unbelievable. The experience, the fans, the team, it is such a strong team, such character in these guys. It’s such an eye opener for me and hopefully I can take some of it back to juniors.
Eakin will indeed go back to juniors for the 2010-11 season, but Caps and Bears fans can get another evaluation on a promising young prospect at Capitals Development camp, which is free to the public, at Kettler IcePlex starting Monday, July 12th and running through Saturday, July 17th. Just two years ago some guys named Alzner, Carlson, Neuvirth, and Semyon Varlamov took part in the 2008 development camp so it is a great opportunity for fans to get a great look at more of the future of Washington Capitals hockey.