While prospects were hitting the ice doing everything they could to impress the coaches at the recent Kootenay Ice training camp, another set of prospects also got some ice time in as they prepare for careers in professional leagues.
NHL hopefuls and Ice alumni in Brayden McNabb, Cody Eakin, James Martin, Max Reinhart, Nathan Lieuwen, Adam Cracknell and Matt Fraser took advantage of some ice time back in their old barn, which included some sessions with Ice coach Ryan McGill.
McGill, who has come full circle by returning to the franchise that launched his coaching career, has spent the last 10 years manning benches in the AHL and the NHL, where the aforementioned skaters will be playing this season.
McNabb and Lieuwen are both in the Buffalo Sabres system, while Martin and Reinhart are prospects with the Calgary Flames. Fraser and Eakin are affiliated with the Dallas Stars, while Cracknell is a St. Louis Blues product.
With an NHL lockout looming, all players will likely stick with their AHL affiliates this season, as the NHL and the NHLPA continue to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
Eakin, a high-flying sniper acquired from the Swift Current Broncos at the WHL trade deadline in 2011, spent last season with the Hershey Bears as a product of the Washington Capitals, before shipping off to Dallas in a trade for Mike Ribeiro and a pick during the NHL Draft.
He played in 43 games with the Bears, but made 30 appearances in the show with the Capitals, scoring four goals and potting four assists.
Playing professionally is an adjustment from major-junior hockey, but a dream come true for Eakin, even if he did a lot of sitting while being called up to the Capitals.
“I want to be a full-time guy and I want to consistently bring my game every night and be a pro,” Eakin said. “There’s a lot of watching and observing and soaking things in from the pros and, especially not playing much a lot of the time, I got to do that a lot and pick up things from guys’ games and start to mold myself into a true pro.”
Eakin is now in the Dallas Stars’ system along with fellow Ice alumni Matt Fraser, as both will be looking to be a big part of its AHL affiliate in the Texas Stars this season.
While he would prefer to be up in the show playing in Dallas, Eakin says there’s not much he and his younger peers can do about a lockout.
“For us, it’s not the end of the world, although we’d like to be up there and with the big squad and playing,” said Eakin, “but at least we’re still playing and we’ll go to the AHL—it’s a helluva league too—so it’ll give us a good opportunity to get in great shape, work hard and hopefully when the start of that season does roll around, we can go right into it.”