Of all the candidates for the Capitals’ third-line center role (and final roster spot), Cody Eakin is the most highly touted. A third-round pick in 2008, Eakin played on Canada’s world junior team and tore up the Western Hockey League at the major junior level.
Now, the idea is to see if the 20-year-old has the strength to make it in the NHL.
“The one good thing about Cody is he can play every position – he can play right wing, left wing, center. He kills penalties,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Obviously he was a big scorer in juniors and at some time he’s going to be growing into an offensive player at the pro level. It’s just a question, again, of finding the right fit for him.”
On Monday night, Eakin played on a line with Mathieu Perreault and Chris Bourque – two other guys competing to make the team. Eakin on the left side of that line could be a precursor of things to come.
Eakin played on the left wing with Brayden Schenn during world juniors.
“He looked comfortable Friday on the left wing, so we’ll move him back and forth and see how it works,” Boudreau said.
Eakin’s defensive prowess is something that allows him to stick out from other players of his age. But Boudreau admitted that Eakin sometimes gets “lost” on defense.
“You can get away with doing some stuff against 17-year-old young men rather than doing stuff agains 28-year-old established players,” he said. “We’ve seen him get caught defensively a couple times in the wrong position, but at the same time when we’ve showed him and he’s picked it up, he’s been able to correct it.”
One of Eakin’s apparent weaknesses during development camp (especially when up against Mattias Sjogren) was faceoffs, something he keeps working on – from technique to strength.
“Every guy’s got a chance to win every draw, and whether he lifts a guy’s stick or wins it with his skates or just wins it clean, everything’s involved with using your body into it,” Eakin said. “It’s tough, obviously, the strength difference that I’m used to, but I’m working on it and getting more comfortable.”
Beating grown men in faceoff circles could be vital to Eakin’s career in the NHL. It’s something Marcus Johansson is still working on now going into his second season.
But Boudreau insisted it wouldn’t be something that would keep him from winning the roster competition.
“It’s something that at the beginning of the year is not going to be the determining factor whether he stays or goes,” Boudreau said. “It’s something that as a centerman you want to improve because you want to be really good at it.”
Said Eakin: “It’s definitely a challenge, every draw. I’ve got to continue to work on it and transfer practice faceoffs toward the game.”