When the Dallas Stars acquired Cody Eakin from the Washington Capitals last summer the thought that was that he was ready to be a full time NHL player. Eakin confirmed that belief with his consistent, solid play with the Texas Stars in the AHL during the NHL lockout.
“Cody Eakin was their most consistent top performer, so he was never out of the top three or four every night,” said Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “That’s a real telltale sign that the player is ready for the NHL.”
When Eakin was called up to Dallas at the end of the NHL lockout, he ranked second on the Texas Stars in points (24), goals (12) and plus/minus rating (plus-8) in 35 games played. He was the team’s No. 1 center and was seeing time on both the power play and penalty kill. Half his goals came on special teams – four on the power play and two shorthanded.
“He plays both ends of the rink. He’s gritty,” said Texas Stars coach Willie Desjardins. “He’s an NHL player, he can play at the NHL level. For him, I think’s it just what role he’ll eventually play in the NHL.”
While he played a major role in Texas, it appears Eakin will see fourth line duty to start the season with Dallas. That’s OK with him.
“My goal here is work my way up,” Eakin said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but obviously you start on that fourth line and we’ll see what happens from there.”
The Washington Capitals, who sent Eakin and a second round pick to the Stars for center Mike Ribeiro in June, selected Eakin in the third round (85th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He was ranked the Capitals’ second best prospect last year by The Hockey News and 31st among all NHL Prospects.
He played 30 games with Washington last season, mostly on the fourth line and registered eight points (four goals, four assists).
“I think I can bring speed, energy and I think I can be reliable defensively. That’s important,” said the 21-year-old Eakin. “I hope I can chip in a little bit offensively. It’s not a huge role as a fourth line, but everybody has to step up at some point and we’ll be ready when we get a chance.”
Eakin was impressive in Tuesday’s training camp scrimmage. He centered a line with Ryan Garbutt and Reilly Smith on the wings, and those three were effective and produced a couple of goals.
“Eakin is quick, he’s a hard worker, he’s relentless on the puck and he plays both ends of the ice. He plays the game with tempo. He’s going to give us some speed there,” said Gulutzan. “I know all the American League guys are ahead right now, but you saw Garbutt, him and Reilly Smith, they were moving and, outside of Loui Eriksson, created the most chances in (Tuesday’s) scrimmage.”
Garbutt, Eakin and Smith have been on the fourth line for the Stars since day one of training camp. Eakin and Garbutt know each other well. They work out together during the offseason. Eakin and Smith have been linemates with the Texas Stars this season, and are the team’s top two scorers.
“He’s always in the right spot and he puts the puck in the net,” Eakin said of Smith. “One day he’s the shooter and I am finding him, and the next day I am the shooter he’s finding me. We just started jelling, and he’s a heck of a player. With Garbs playing that other side it adds more speed. If that’s how it ends up Saturday, we’ll be raring to go.”