It’s the intangibles of size, strength, hockey sense, winning battles versus losing battles. That encompasses it. It’s not one thing, it’s everything. -Bruce Boudreau, Capitals Head Coach
That was Boudreau back in 2011 when he was the Capitals head coach under George McPhee. The coach spoke with D.C. media about the type of player the organization wanted. One of the players mentioned was then Caps rookie Cody Eakin. The intangible skills scouts reported could’ve been the reason he was drafted by McPhee in 2009 and then again via Expansion in 2017. Believe in intangibles or not, it’s an aspect that is strongly researched in the NHL. With help from an article in the Toronto Star, here’s an attempt to measure the unmeasurables in Cody Eakin’s game.
To me, that means there’s a loose puck, and they work like crazy to try and get it back. And if they fall down, they get right back up and try it again. -Ray Ferraro, TSN Hockey Analyst
Back in the WHL, Eakin was labeled as a gritty two-way player. He quickly won over NHL coaches with his aggressive fore-checking, special teams play, and shot-blocking ability. All three skills are in the definition of a gritty player. Eakin will likely anchor the Golden Knights penalty kill while playing an average of 16+ minutes a game. It could increase with the responsibility Coach Gerard Gallant will inevitably put on him. Not known for fighting, the Red Knight is willing to answer the call if necessary. C’mon, Cody knew he wasn’t leaving the ice unscathed after his brutal hit on Handsome Hank.
Somebody with good hockey sense can sense what’s going to happen on a certain play. The puck is coming around the boards, a guy with hockey sense will know, ‘the puck is going there, so I’m going here.’ -Larry Robinson, Hall of Fame defenseman
Eakin has been a reliable, versatile center since coming into the league in 2011. Being able to play multiple positions and log heavy minutes is crucial to Gallant. He’ll trust the 25-year-old center in many high-pressure, high-risk, game situations. Even-strength, down a man, or defensive zone face-offs, nothing is too much for Eakin. Labeled a calm player that won’t panic, it’s no wonder he scored eleven game-winning goals. Eakin’s awareness set him up for two playoff game-winning gems.
He’s one of the tenacious, one-on-one battle guys. You can’t keep him down. You start him on your fourth line, and next thing you know you’re playin’ him in your top six. He can play fourth line left wing or first line centre. -Mark Lamb, Swift Current Head Coach (while Eakin was there)
Former Stars coach Lindy Ruff knew what to expect after playing with Cody’s father, Butch Eakin.
Pretty hard-nosed player. Real good skater, same type of energy [as Cody]. His dad was pretty well built too, pretty tough, so I think Cody’s got some of that grit in him. I think everybody likes to think they’ve got a little bit of their old man in him. -Lindy Ruff, Dallas Stars Heas Coach
Ruff and Boudreau were highly complimentary of Eakin’s competition level. Vegas fans will get to enjoy and appreciate his intensity. Teammates will hopefully feed off of Eakin’s effort. Possibly making him a leader on the ice and in the locker room.
Coaches love reliable players like him who win their battles. He’s that guy — plus, he’s an excellent skater. -Lamb
Character is that you don’t become selfish, and that is really hard in a sport where your individual contributions keep you in the team sport. -Ferraro
Coaches need versatile centers they can trust, but they also need high-character players. Eakin is an unselfish player, team-first type of guy. He’ll play aggressive, stick up for his teammates, and step over the line from time to time. And he’ll work his ass off playing multiple positions, on multiple lines, and special teams. All while answering to the media professionally after a loss. Only leaders can take on responsibility like that.
Grit, hockey sense, competition level, and character. Four ways to measure the NHL’s unmeasurable. I don’t expect to change minds on intangibles but franchises are progressive in scouting them. NHL analytic departments are creating stats to measure things like hockey sense with exams that mimic the Wonderlic test. Eakin is the type of player that would perform well on today’s test.
With his toughness, intelligence, and leadership, Eakin could be the difference in some Golden Knights games. And I said some, don’t get on me for overrating Eakin. But by the way, it’s players like him that could establish the Vegas culture. And we all know about culture.