Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Eakin eager to crack lineup

Among three Manitobans invited to Team Canada selection camp

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Presented with a second chance to make Canada's world junior team, what does Winnipeg's Cody Eakin have today that he didn't have 12 months ago?

Maturity and a clear understanding of his bitter disappointment from being cut before the world junior tournament last December.

"I'm a little older and that much wiser," Eakin, 19, said Monday from Swift Current, Sask., where he has put up 27 points in his first 24 games of the WHL season. "And the time I spent in Hershey (of the AHL, for nine games late last season) I think also made me a better player because I had to be better to even play at that level."

Eakin, forward Quinton Howden of Oakbank and goalie Calvin Pickard of Winnipeg were the three Manitobans to be sent invitations to Team Canada's world junior selection camp Dec. 12-15 in Toronto.

Thirty-nine players will assemble and head coach Dave Cameron will have an army of advisers to help to select the country's entry for the World Junior Hockey Championship, Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo.

Last year's tournament, where Canada lost the final game to the U.S., was on Eakin's television.

It wasn't easy viewing.

"Yeah, a little bitter seeing it, thinking I should have been playing," Eakin said Monday. "But a lot of people seem to forget that it's not an easy team to make. Just because you get a tryout doesn't mean you make the team.

"I had a lot of good support then, a lot of help from my coach with some wisdom to let me know there's always next year, and from my parents and family and friends."

The Washington Capitals draft pick is counting down the games (six) until he departs for Toronto and his chance to change the fate he suffered last December.

"I really had that in mind at the summer camp," Eakin said about Team Canada's summer development camp in St. John's, N.L. "I went there thinking I had something to prove."

Howden, 18, plays for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors and has been drafted by the Florida Panthers. He and Eakin are among 23 forwards invited to the final camp.

Pickard, also 18, is a member of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds and a Colorado Avalanche draft pick, and is one of the four goalies invited to camp.

Hockey Canada's head scout Kevin Prendergast has criss-crossed the country since September evaluating and monitoring dozens of candidates.

He said age -- three of the four netminding invitees are 18-year-olds and just one, Olivier Roy, is 19 -- was not a consideration in coming up with a goaltending list of Pickard, Toronto's J.P. Anderson, Roy, of Causapscal, Que., and Mark Visentin of Waterdown, Ont.

"We just felt they were the four best goaltenders available," Prendergast said Monday afternoon. "All are having outstanding years.

"Olivier had an outstanding summer camp and is probably the best goaltender in the Quebec (major junior) league at this point.

"Pickard has been outstanding for Seattle this year and he's been the best goalie this year there. Anderson is on the No. 1 (ranked) team in the country (Mississauga, OHL) and Visentin, he's been steady all the time.

"I don't feel there's any clear-cut No. 1 here at this point."

Prendergast also said Monday Team Canada isn't waiting around for several world junior-eligible players who are in the NHL, like Edmonton's Taylor Hall or Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes.

There have been suggestions that the Los Angeles Kings could free up centre Brayden Schenn and Boston might do without centre Tyler Seguin. Prendergast said they'd be welcomed, but preparations must begin without counting on NHL teams' help.

Without them, Team Canada will have a maximum of three players returning from last year's team, defencemen Ryan Ellis, Calvin de Haan and Jared Cowan.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2010 C4

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