Robertson, McEachen bring mature outlook to Hurricanes prospect camp

Peter Koutroumpis – editor@trianglesportsnet.com

RALEIGH, N.C. – The two oldest players on the ice at this week’s Carolina Hurricanes Prospect Camp, Dennis Robertson and Patrick McEachen, provided some perspective on their experiences following Wednesday’s second on-ice session at PNC Arena.

While both are 23 years old and recently completed their collegiate playing careers in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) respectively, the paths they followed to get to Carolina have been different.

However, their primary goal for attending camp is exactly the same – to start a professional playing career at some level within the Hurricanes organization.

Roberts, a sixth-round (173rd overall) pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, was acquired by the Hurricanes as part of a trade last January that sent defenseman Tim Gleason to Toronto in exchange for defenseman John-Michael Lyles and the rights to Roberts.

The six-foot-one-inch, 215-pound, former Brown Bears captain was selected as Best Defensive Defenseman in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) last season while posting 17 points (6g, 11a) and 78 penalty minutes in 30 games.

Having attended three previous prospect camps with Toronto, Robertson hadn’t yet stepped onto the ice as a pro when his rights were traded to the Hurricanes, a transaction that caught him a little off-guard.

“I was surprised; you don’t hear often that guys get traded before they’ve even suited up for a game with their team,” Robertson said.

“That’s how it works, and in the end it doesn’t really change anything for me. It doesn’t change my goals and my plan in how I want to be a professional.”

Robertson noted how his collegiate career helped him prepare for a pro career that started in Charlotte last season, playing in one game, after he inked a two-way entry-level deal with Carolina last March.

“It gave me a chance to mature as a player and as a person,” Robertson said.

“Going through four years of college and getting that degree is a big step. It’s a good thing to be able to fall back on. Now I’m able to completely focus on hockey and I think that being able to balance a college schedule is going to help me with the pro life. The four years at Brown were unbelievable, but I’m excited to get movin’ now with Carolina.”

As a camp invitee, McEachen used an exceptional final season with the Queen’s University Gaels to catch the eye of a member of the Hurricanes scouting staff based in the Ottawa, Ontario area and got his opportunity to hopefully start a career at the ECHL or AHL level in the Hurricanes system.

A Stouffville, Ontario resident, the same hometown of Hurricanes prospect defenseman, Trevor Carrick, McEachen was assistant captain of a Gaels team that made it as high as seventh nationally in the CIS rankings while finishing with a program-tying 17-6-5 record.

The six-foot-one-inch, 190-pound defenseman posted 13 points (5g, 8a) and eight penalty minutes in 27 games played in Ontario University Sport (OUA) competition while finishing a three-and-a-half year playing career in a collegiate system that is comprised of much older players than those in the NCAA.

“Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that Canadian university hockey is getting better and better every year,” McEachen said.

“There are 20-year-old players who have played junior who are not going to the East Coast (ECHL) or the AHL in some cases, and are using their school package (from junior hockey) to go play CIS, so the level of hockey is getting better and better. A lot of guys who have played four years of major junior hockey and then coming to CIS are basically grown men. That’s a little bit of the difference between CIS and NCAA. The NCAA, they get players when they’re 18, 19, 20. CIS gets them when they’re 21 and they have the next four years (to play) and are a little more mature.”

Following the end of his season with Queen’s, McEachen is now trying to show that he can play at the pro level, and has some work to do.

He’s trying to capture attention from new sets of eyes, more influential ones from the Hurricanes coaching and front office staffs, since he’s a relative unknown at camp, and the oldest as well.

“None of the rest of the staff has seen me play,” McEachen said.

“That’s what I’m trying to do here. Take advantage of the opportunity and show them what I can do.”

As Robertson and McEachen are both new to the Carolina system, they have appreciated how the organization operates and have been learning how to become a part of it.

“There’s so much to absorb when you come to your first camp,” Robertson said.

“I remember my first year in Toronto was a little overwhelming. Everyone’s bigger, faster, stronger, better. Now as you get into it, the coaches, you’re a little more comfortable with them, and a little more with the little details that make the pros so good. Compared to when you first get there, there’s so much to take in, you’re just tryin’ to draw in as much as you can.”

Though he doesn’t have previous pro prospect camp experience like Robertson has, McEachen is watching and picking his spots to show that he possesses the maturity to become a pro through his on and off-ice conduct.

“I think just leading by example every day,” he said.

“I’m not the most vocal guy in the room. Obviously, you speak a little more as a fourth-year player than a first-year player, but I think just bringing a positive attitude and working your hardest every day is the biggest thing that can gain the respect of your teammates and coaches.”

By the end of the week, both Robertson and McEachen will know better where their experience, coupled with their performance in Raleigh, will eventually land them within the organization.