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Cody Eakin: "I gotta keep pushing my game"

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On the heels of this morning's prospect post, we have a prospect interview, with the Washington Capitals' third round (#85) selection in last summer's draft, center (and occasional winger) Cody Eakin.

Cody's tearing it up with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL this season.  The multi-tooled forward is eighth in points and third in goals in the Western League in this 2009-10 campaign.

So far we know that Cody isn't just another prolific goal scorer at the junior level.  At the selection camp for the Canadian national team which competed in Saskatchewan in the World Juniors over the holidays, he said:  "At a level like this, everyone can score goals.  It's a matter of doing the other things, being a two-way player and being a reliable player. If you're not doing that, obviously somebody else will be and they'll take your spot."

Sounds like the type of crafty yet responsible player with serious wheels that GM George McPhee and his staff have developed a knack for drafting in recent years.  One that, we hope, is well suited for the game of the NHL's future, and not its past.

By late October, Eakin had already walked the walk (and showed some tenacity) enough to earn himself a three-year, entry level pact with the Caps, barely four months after he'd been drafted.

Unfortunately, he just missed playing for his country in that recent U-20 tournament.  Following his dismissal from selection camp, he told CBC Sports:

I can't say I've ever been cut before, but I'll take something from it and focus on the next one.  Being cut's being cut.  It doesn't matter what position you're in. You want to be making the team and having success with the team. It's disappointing and I'll take a while to think about it.

Seems that he's thought about it by bearing down.  Since then, he's showed no signs of letting up in the scoring department.  Here's the stat line on his break out season to date:

GP G A P +/- PIM
2009 - Cody Eakin - Swift Current Broncos 45 33 26 59 -9 47

We had an exclusive opportunity to speak with the promising forward by telephone yesterday afternoon, an off day, from Swift Current, SK.

Here's what he had to say about the WJCs, his season thus far, being signed by Les Capitals, Patrice Cormier, and the possibility of jumping to the pros with Hershey in the near future (You can listen to the full audio of our chat here, or read on after the jump):

Japers' Rink:  First off, how were your holidays?
Eakin:  They were good.  They were short, like usual.  But it happens. 
JR:  Yeah, I guess it would have been a little nicer if you had the chance to play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. 
Eakin:  Yeah, it would have been nice, but it happens.  And you learn from it and its not the end of the world.  They're always next year too.
JR:  Definitely.  Now I have to ask you and, be honest, when you were watching that final game and watching John Carlson score the overtime goal, were you thinking just a little bit -- "Man, if I was on that team, it might have been a different story"?
Eakin:  Ah, I don't really know what I was thinking too hard.  But, it was nice to see Carlie score a goal like that and play a big game.  But, you know, I definitely wanted to be out there and a little part of me was pretty injured on the inside. 
I don't know if it would have changed anything, but I sure would have liked to have been a part of it.
JR:  Sure!  So right now, you're riding a four-game goal scoring streak and a 12-game point scoring streak.  What's contributed to your recent success?
Eakin:  I don't know, I think being an older guy on my team, I've got to be counted on, relied upon to help out offensively and, you know, shooting the puck.  And being a third year guy in the [WHL], all those things come in to factor in.  Getting stronger, and all those things play in . . . I'm just helping out and contributing and it feels pretty good.
JR:  Great.  So I have to ask before we get more into your season -- have you seen the Patrice Cormier hit [ed. note:  viewer discretion advised] and, if so, what's your reaction to it?
Eakin:  You know what?  I'm actually sitting on the computer in my trainer's office trying to find it right now.  I heard about it today.  [Googling, etc.]  I'll see if I can take a quick look at it.
JR:  Well, while you're doing that [nervous laughter on my part], is there anything that the Caps have asked you to work on in particular after you spent some time down in D.C. in July and in the September camp?
Eakin:  Well, I've been talking to Steve Richmond [Capitals' Director of Player Development] quite a bit.  And obviously, I gotta keep pushing my game.  A big thing is hitting the gym, you know, as much as I can.  We got a really busy schedule, especially in the second half. 
But its a matter of getting stronger and finding, I don't know, maybe down the road . . . skating wise it's ok and things like that . . . I gotta keep working hard.  But getting stronger is probably the main thing they've told me, and that's what I've been trying to do.
JR:  What's impressed me was how quickly the Caps' signed you after drafting you.  Was that a surprise to you, or were they talking to you about it well before October of last year?
Eakin:  No, they hadn't actually.  It was surprising.   You know, it's always nice -- not that I've experienced it before -- but it was real nice to get that out of the way and now I don't have to really worry about it.  I was surprised at the time, and obviously really excited. 
But it was nice to get that out of the way and now I don't have to think about it and concentrate on it and now I can just get back to playing hockey.
JR:  Was there any particular nice memory that you have of the Caps' development camp or training camp?  Or any one or couple of mentors who helped you while you were there?
Eakin:  I think all of the guys were pretty nice.  Obviously, it was my first NHL camp and it was really special to see guys, you know, the whole team, and be on the same team as some of the guys that you watch on TV every night.  I think all of the guys did a pretty good job of introducing themselves and saying hi and making us feel really welcome there.
JR:  In addition to following the Caps a bit, have you followed Hershey in the American league at all?
Eakin:  I get updates weekly, and check up stats once in a while when I'm on the computer.  But as far as watching games, I don't.  But I know they're doing well.
JR:  What do you think about the opportunity to maybe make the jump to the pros and play for them in the spring?
Eakin:  Oh, that would be exciting!  Obviously, I want to go as far as I can in the playoffs with my team here.  There's nothing like it.  But, if when it's all said and done, if I get a phone call and be asked to come up, whether it's to watch or to practice or what have you, it would be an exciting time for me, and I think definitely would be an eye opener for me.
JR:  They're pretty deep down the middle there.  If you do make it, what do you think that you'd have to do to distinguish yourself and get some ice time?
Eakin:  Oh, I think if you get called up to any team, you gotta play a simple, smart game.  You gotta be reliable player.  You wouldn't expect to go up there and log big minutes.  But the minutes that you are out there -- you gotta take advantage and show that you're smart, reliable, and you can be put on the ice and you don't have to be worried about.
JR:  Did you get a chance to look at that Cormier hit now?  I know it's sort of a quick reaction.
Eakin:  I just checked it out.  Here, let me look at it again . . . I guess it was kind of an elbow right to the head, eh? 
JR:  Definitely, right off of the bench.
Eakin:  Yeah, it . . . I don't know.   It doesn't look like the cleanest hit.  I know, playing with Cormie and stuff [ed. note: together in last summer's WJC camp] . . . you know that's kind of . . . he plays a tough game, and a hard-hitting game. 
But . . . I guess you kind of want to watch when you get into situations like that.  It's obviously not the cleanest of hits but . . . I really don't know what to say.  I don't really want to comment too much on it.

[Ed. note:  Cormier was suspended indefinitely from the Q pending a further ruling.]
JR:  Just one more question -- in your draft interview, I believe, you referenced Alex Ovechkin as your favorite player.  Is it his drive that you're modeling yourself after or what is it in particular that you love so much about him?
Eakin:  I think it's just his passion for the game.   I'm sure that everyone would say the same thing.  The guy just loves to be out there.  Whether it's his first, fifth, or sixtieth goal of the season, he still celebrates the same and he's just as excited if it's him or a teammate putting it in the net.  I like that about him.  I like how he's strong, solid, just does whatever he can to win.  That adds and contributes to why he's the best player in the world, obviously.