Cody Eakin is not necessarily a well-known commodity for his on-ice performance, but he is known throughout the league for having a really good head of hair. Eakin got 8.9 percent of the votes in that category in the NHLPA’s player poll. He’s been with the Sabres for two seasons, playing in more of a defensive and checking role for the team while also bringing a veteran presence to the group. He has only put up a combined 19 points in his two years in Buffalo, but his contributions go beyond points while playing in the bottom-six of the depth chart.
Eakin’s Expectations This Season Were Similar to Last
Heading into this season, Eakin was seen as a defensive forward who can be put on the ice for important faceoffs and contribute to the team’s penalty kill. In the 2020-21 season, he was not used on the penalty kill as much as he was this season, but his faceoff win percentage was one of the highest on the team at 54.4 percent. He was pretty much a marginal player who won’t do too much to impress, but he isn’t going to make too many mistakes to hurt the team either.
Other than the faceoff and penalty-killing abilities, Eakin does not bring much more on the ice. He chipped in three goals and four assists during the 2020-21 season, but he hasn’t been able to return a level anywhere near his career-high of 41 points during the 2018-19 season. Thus he was viewed in the defensive, bottom-six forward light heading into this season.
But one area where Eakin does not get enough credit is the veteran leadership he brings to the room. He has been in the NHL since the 2011-12 season and had played on four different teams before playing for the Sabres. He has also appeared in 50 playoff games, with 20 of those coming during the Vegas Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. Including this season, Eakin has played in 701 games. Having someone with that many games played in the locker room is impactful for the younger players on the team.
This Season Was More of the Same for Eakin
During the 2021-22 campaign, Eakin contributed in the same areas he had before, but he was trusted with more ice time this season. He went from having average ice time on the penalty kill to being the second leading forward in penalty kill minutes, trailing only Kyle Okposo. His faceoff contributions remained steady as well, leading the team in faceoff percentage by winning 56 percent of his draws this season. The next closest Sabre in terms of faceoff win percentage was Zemgus Girgensons at 49.8 percent.
Eakin also upped his point totals from a year ago, albeit modestly. He scored four goals and added eight assists for 12 points this season, up from the seven points he had the year prior. While he isn’t asked to contribute too much offensively, seeing him get into the 20 to 30-point range would be ideal for him to round out his game. He strengthens the team’s overall defense, but chipping in a little bit more offensively would make him a more attractive option for the team moving forward.
Beyond the on-ice performance, this season showed the leadership Eakin brought to the group. His teammates seemed to love him not only for his hair but also for the positive attitude and hard work he displays each and every day. While he may not be someone the Sabres have in their long-term plans, he was a positive influence on the locker room this season that saw the attitude around the organization vastly improve.
Eakin’s Future Outlook and Final Grade
Eakin is coming off the two-year contract he signed with the Sabres and is now an unrestricted free agent. It is difficult to see where he would slot into the depth chart with players like JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn seemingly ready to graduate from Rochester to Buffalo next season. If they do choose to re-sign him, it should be at a lower salary cap hit from his previous $2.25 million, and he should not be relied upon to play in every game. Having him as a 13th or 14th forward would be an immense benefit to the depth of the organization if he was comfortable re-signing to play in that role.
Given the limited expectations and limited output from him this season, Eakin gets a C+ grade for the 2021-22 season.
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Zach Rohde is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW. Growing up in the Buffalo area during the late 2000s, the Sabres success fueled his passion for hockey. He has written about the Sabres for another site in Buffalo previously, and covered Buffalo Sports for a brief time as a freelance sports assistant for Spectrum News Buffalo before moving to a full time position in general news. Twitter: @ZachRohde