Eager acquired in blockbuster with Phoenix

By Al Alven

The long-rumored deal sending veteran goaltender Sean Burke back to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward Mike Comrie has finally come to fruition. In addition to Burke, the Flyers will also receive forward Branko Radivojevic and unsigned 20-year-old left wing prospect Ben Eager.

Eager, currently playing in his fourth season with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, was originally drafted by Phoenix with the 23rd overall pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

Immediately, Eager becomes the Flyers’ top left wing prospect. The organization remains very thin there, with NHL longshots Mathieu Brunelle, Milan Kopecky and Konstantin Rudenko being the only other notables at that position on the depth chart.

An Ottawa native, the 6’2″, 215 lb. Eager never blossomed offensively as the Coyotes had hoped. Still, his numbers in junior have been decent, and he has developed into one of the more solid, all-around power forwards in the OHL.

At present, Eager ranks third on the Generals with 41 points (20 goals, 21 assists) and a minus-5 rating in 52 games. In terms of PIMs, however, he leads the team by a huge margin with 168 (right wing Ryan Bowness is closest with only 72). For his OHL career, he has 128 points (55 goals, 73 assists) and 759 PIMs in 234 games.

Scouts and observers have always been quick to point out Eager’s work ethic and size as his primary assets. He plays the game with a lot of spunk and tenacity, is a bull along the boards and loves to drive to the net.

Eager is also an above average skater who has been noted for his tremendous leg strength. Once he gets up a head of steam, he displays a powerful stride that helps him drive by defenders and cover a lot of ground quickly (essentially making him look much faster than he actually is).

Technically, Eager can re-enter the draft if he remains unsigned in June. At this point, however, it is a safe bet to assume that he will ink a pro contract with the Flyers during the coming offseason, and join the roster of the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms in 2004-05.

At any rate, Eager will continue to patrol the wing for Oshawa for at least the next month or so. The team (19-25-8-1 for 47 points, third place in East Division) is currently battling for a playoff spot in what is a very competitive Eastern Conference in the OHL this season.

The final game of the regular season for the Generals is scheduled for Sunday, March 14 vs. Toronto.