For this particular development camp, Cody Eakin will be one of the most watched and scrutinized prospects in attendance. The 20-year-old center is set to turn pro in the fall and the question that looms is where will he do so? Washington or Hershey?
Eakin responded diplomatically when asked directly if he’s ready to make the leap from juniors to the NHL, though.
“That’s where I’ve set my goals,” Eakin said. “I am coming to camp to make the team, and if I don’t, that’s the way it goes and I’ll play where I end up.”
A year ago, Eakin impressed the Capitals’ coaching staff to the point that they strongly considered keeping him in Washington before sending him back to the Western Hockey League, where he continued to develop for one more season while holding key roles on both junior and national teams.
The Winnipeg native recorded 36 goals and 83 points in 56 regular season games and served as the Swift Current Broncos’ captain until he was traded to the Kootenay Ice as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal. Eakin went on to tally 11 goals and 27 goals in 19 playoff games with Kootenay as it reached the Memorial Cup tournament. He also recorded three points and was a plus-3 in seven games with Canada at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo.
Those combined experiences are part of the reason Coach Bruce Boudreau said on Monday that he expects Eakin to compete with free agent signee Mattias Sjogren, 23, from Sweden, and Hershey regular Mathieu Perreault for what at this point would appear to be one spot on the NHL roster when training camp takes place in September.
“I just look at him out here — it’s day one of a development camp in July — and he’s got that determination that he’s coming in to make the team,” Boudreau said. “He’s going to be in tremendous shape and he’s going to do, I think, whatever it takes to stick. He’s got that mentality.”
This is Eakin’s third development camp appearance since he was drafted in the third round in 2009 and he knows in order to make the best impression possible, he can’t risk getting off to a slow start in the first training session of the offseason.
“You can’t come here and take camp off and decide, ‘Hey I’ll wait for rookie camp.’” Eakin said. “It starts now. You have to be prepared for today and the rest of the week and carry it over and work hard in the summer.”