Dallas Stars center Cody Eakin and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene compete for a loose puck in a preseason game on Sept. 26. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

On June 22, 2012, the day of the NHL draft, Cody Eakin was caught by surprise when the Washington Capitals traded him and a second-round pick that year to the Dallas Stars in exchange for veteran center Mike Ribeiro.

It was a move that gave the Capitals the playmaking second-line center they had long sought — for a year, anyway. And it gave Eakin an opportunity to move up the depth chart that likely wasn’t available in Washington.

“At first I was a little shocked but they traded a heck of a player to Washington so I knew there was going to be an opportunity for me to get some ice time,” Eakin said Saturday morning in Dallas. “I came down here, got comfortable in the American league last year for the first half and then last season was able to make the transition pretty smoothly.”

Eakin played 35 games for the AHL’s Texas Stars last year during the lockout and then skated in all 48 of Dallas’s contests once the shortened NHL regular season began.

He recorded seven goals, 17 assists and averaged 15:05 of ice time per night as the Stars’ usual third-line center last season. He’ll line up at second-line center tonight in his first game against the Capitals since the trade, skating with Ray Whitney and Alex Chiasson.

“I thought through camp he was one of our better players,” Stars Coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought his puck movement was real good, his defense against some of the top players in his own zone was good.”

Even if Eakin doesn’t stick on the second line in Dallas, he’s become a consistent part of the team’s lineup and wants to make the most of the chances he’s receiving to be more of an impact player.

“This season I’m getting more of an opportunity, more minutes and hopefully I can take advantage of that,” Eakin said. “I worked hard this offseason and can hopefully I can be able to handle that workload.”