Before the Vegas Golden Knights selected Cody Eakin in this summer’s expansion draft, he could count on one hand how many times prior he visited Las Vegas.
“I had been to Vegas twice,” said the 26-year-old Eakin, formerly of the Dallas Stars. “I never left the Strip.”
Eakin has taken full advantage of exploring what rests beyond Las Vegas besides bright lights, casinos and tall buildings. He hiked Red Rock Canyon for the first time last week with some friends, which is only a few miles away from City National Arena, the Golden Knights’ practice facility.
“There’s going to be a lot of stuff to do while we’re here, experiencing the culture,” Eakin said. “You don’t really know what to expect.”
One thing Eakin didn’t expect, but has been pleasantly surprised with, is how engulfed the Vegas community has been with the Golden Knights less than a week into training camp. The Golden Knights’ first practice Friday saw a packed house at City National Arena. The steep red bleachers were filled with eager spectators who probably called in sick to work to see their newest team hit the ice for the first time.
“It shows that people are ready to support the team and people are excited about it,” Eakin said. “With them there, it makes it all more fun.”
Not. One. Empty. Seat. pic.twitter.com/x6FK7Vu6Zp— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) September 15, 2017
Many players these fans have watched share the same stories -- plucked from their former teams, looking for a chance to carve out a niche and make this roster. Eakin is one of those guys. Two years ago, he was a top-six forward on the best team in the Western Conference and had his third straight season of at least 35 points.
Then came last season; a 12-point campaign for Eakin and the Stars were one of the worst teams in the NHL. Dallas re-tooled and re-vamped its roster, while Eakin had some reservations that he’d be left unprotected by the organization he spent the last five years with.
“It didn’t take long for me to kind of swallow it and start looking forward,” Eakin said. “Right away, I didn’t really know if I was going to be picked up or leave unprotected. It’s the game, the business.”
Eakin gets a fresh start. He’s spent the last few years playing on a team that featured dynamic offensive juggernauts like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Even the emergence of Devin Shore and Radek Faska knocked Eakin further down the totem pole. He comes to Vegas with the possibility of being a top-six guy out the gate.
But a potentially bigger role doesn’t matter much for Eakin. He says the pieces will fall as they may and his role will be determined as camp rolls on.
“I just go hard every time and hopefully results will follow,” he said. “No matter where I play in the lineup, it’s the same for me. Everyone’s got a role and they’ve got to go do their job.”
What to expect at practice Monday
- George McPhee is set to provide an injury update on Reid Duke, Mikhail Grabovski and David Clarkson today. Duke suffered an undisclosed injury during the Golden Knights’ second rookie scrimmage against the Los Angeles Kings last week and did not play in Sunday’s preseason opener against the Vancouver Canucks. Grabovski and Clarkson are on long-term IR.
- Tyler Wong is going to be the talk after his four-point performance, including Vegas’ first hat trick against the Canucks. The 21-year old Airdrie native is still not signed to a contract. That’ll obviously need to change if the Golden Knights want Wong to play on opening night (which might not be a longshot anymore), or have him start the year in Chicago.
- Cody Glass and Tomas Hyka also had really strong showings in Vancouver, carrying over their success over the last two weeks. They’ll likely be getting a lot of playing time Tuesday in Colorado, as will the prospects once again.