In recent years, defensemen have been making quicker jumps to the NHL than in the past. Anaheim Ducks blue-liner Cam Fowler is one of them. Despite the current numbers, the Fowler hasn’t missed a beat in his sophomore campaign thus far.
Fowler has two assists and a minus-3 rating through 11 games. On the surface, those numbers don’t impress. After his 40-point output last season, some may even suggest the 19-year-old could be falling into a sophomore slump – but don’t tell his coach that.
“He’s been dominant in games with his skating and puck-moving ability,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said. “The minus tag that is attached to his statistics right now would lead people to believe that, but in no way, shape, or form has he shown any sort of slump, from our perspective as a coaching staff.”
Fowler added, “I feel confident with the way I’m playing. The coaching staff has put more responsibility on me this year. That’s all that really matters to me – it’s the coaching staff and my teammates have confidence in me. I wish my offensive output was a bit more right now, but I don’t think that’s a tribute to bad play at all.”
Last season, the Windsor, Ont., native surprised many people by cracking the Ducks roster out of training camp (especially after being considered a top-five pick and falling to 12th in the first round of the 2010 Entry Draft). On top of his impressive production as a rookie, he logged 22-plus minutes a night. Fowler’s minus-25 rating proved he had bumps along the way, but wasn’t a fair assessment of his play.
“He came in last year and didn’t look out of place by any means,” forward Bobby Ryan said. “He’s very mature for his age. On the ice he can take control of a game, and that’s a tough thing to ask of a 19-year-old in this league. He’s wise and poised beyond his years.”
Defenseman Toni Lydman added, “He plays like he has more experience than he actually does.”
Fowler, who is averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per night, says he feels more comfortable in his second season.
“Last year I never got a chance to sit down and think what I was doing. It all happens so fast,” he said. “This year I’ve come in with more confidence with a season and playoffs under my belt.”
Fowler says major tournaments such as the Memorial Cup and World Junior Championships helped him in his transition to the NHL last season.
“Those were big tournaments for me,” he said. “Playing internationally, you get to play against the best players in the world. It’s high pressure situations that you’re put in in those tournaments. That’s what playoff hockey is like – it’s always high pressure and high intensity. I’m able to reach back to some of those games and look at how I prepared myself and carry that over.”
Fowler also mentioned that it didn’t truly set in that he was in the NHL until after last spring’s postseason when the Ducks were knocked out of the first round.
“I got to go home and spend some time with my family and talk about everything, because it all just happened so fast – getting drafted, rookie camp, then playing (in the NHL),” he said. “Now I feel I belong; not that I didn’t last year, but I just never had a chance to sit down and let it sink in.”
Coming out of Windsor of the OHL, Fowler carried the reputation of primarily being an offensive-minded defenseman. With 2010-11 defenseman points leader Lubomir Visnovsky as his teammate, Fowler has a good mentor.
“He’s always a guy I can go to,” Fowler said of Visnovsky. “The thing with Lubo is he keeps to himself and is a quiet guy, but we have formed a good relationship. We get some time playing on the power play together. He shares that similar offensive style, so he’s someone I’m always talking to.”
Bobby Ryan has been impressed with Fowler’s offensive capabilities in the year-plus they’ve been playing together.
“His game is on another level. He’s very poised and intelligent with the puck,” Ryan said of Fowler. “He makes the right decisions, knowing when to jump (in the play) or hold off. It makes him deceptive because he finds his way into those tough areas.
“He’s a confident kid, and that translates on the ice. He’s taking that leap of maturity this year as a player.”Photo credit: Getty Images