There has been a lot of talk this summer about the Dallas Stars’ center situation, and for good reason.
Already led by Tyler Seguin, whose 84 points were the fourth-highest total in the NHL last season, the Stars also went out and acquired Jason Spezza in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. The 31 year-old is a career point-per-game player (687 points in 686 games), and has spent the last several years as the number one center for the Senators. He’ll slot onto Dallas’ second line, giving the team a lethal one-two punch up the middle of the ice.
Going beyond the much-heralded combination of Seguin and Spezza, however, the Stars have another talented center on their roster, one that hasn’t been getting as much media attention but could also play a huge role in Dallas next season: Cody Eakin.
Eakin, 23, is one of the top up-and-coming two-way centers in the league. He played 81 games for the Stars last season, primarily on the closest thing that the team had to a second line alongside Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt, and recorded a respectable 35 points.
While he doesn’t have the offensive flash of Seguin or Spezza, what Eakin brings to the Stars is also very integral to the team’s success once one takes a closer look.
Like a Swiss Army Knife, Eakin’s greatest gift to his team is the ability to be utilized in almost any situation. Offensively and defensively, even strength and on special teams, Eakin is quickly developing into a player that Stars head coach Lindy Ruff can heavily rely on.
Eakin played the third most minutes of any Stars forward last season, behind only Seguin and Jamie Benn, averaging 17:19 per game. On a regular basis Eakin faced some of the toughest competition from the opposing teams’ top lines, but still managed to put up solid possession stats.
He was a mainstay on Dallas’ special teams as well, averaging 2:03 minutes of powerplay ice time per game, along with 1:34 shorthanded. He also led the team in faceoffs taken by a large margin, at 1223. Vernon Fiddler was next on the team with 982.
Now, Eakin’s season was far from perfect. His 35 points were below what was needed out of a second line center, Dallas’ special teams were in the bottom half of the league, and Eakin only won an unspectacular 47.8% of those draws that he took.
That being said, at only 23 years old Eakin is still developing and has yet to enter the prime years of his career. Last season was his first working with Ruff, and his first playing on a line with Roussel and Garbutt, but that trio appears to be set to play with each other again this year. With Spezza now in the mix Eakin’s line becomes the de facto third line on the team, and will be given more room to grow with Spezza’s line picking up some of the heavy lifting and tough minutes.
With the same coach, the same linemates, and the same role on the team, it seems likely that Eakin will take a step forward in his development this season. The Stars are currently being viewed as a team that could make huge strides forward this season, and if that happens there’s a very good chance that Eakin will play a large role in that improvement.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL