|Forward Drayson Bowman, taken by the Hurricanes
in the third round of the 2007 Draft, is focused on making the Team USA squad for this year's World Junior Championships after failing last year.
He arrived Friday in Lake Placid for the 2008 USA National Team Evaluation Camp at the Olympic Training Center with a clean slate, harboring no grudges. That's the story and he is sticking to it.
A little extra motivation? Maybe. But a chip? Definitely not.
"I'm trying to be a big kid and put that stuff behind me," Bowman said.
Make no mistake, however, the frustration about not making last year's World Junior team still lingers with Bowman, but he insists it does not define him.
Bowman believes he showed through his performance last season with Spokane in the Western Hockey League -- 82 points in 66 regular-season games and another 20 points in his team's march to the Memorial Cup Championship -- that he deserved to be on the 2008 Team USA entry that finished fourth in the World Junior Championship.
"Hopefully, they still feel like they made a mistake and, if not, I'll just try to prove my case again this year that they should put me on the team," Bowman said.
Nobody from Team USA is talking about mistakes made in excluding Bowman from last year's team. Rightfully, they argue that there is an ever-growing group of top-tier American players at the junior level each year. Each year, USA Hockey believes it picks the best team to compete in the World Junior Championship.
As a result, deserving players will always be left off the team. That's the nature of elite-level competition. Last year, Bowman just happened to be one of the unhappy parties, they say.
But those same USA Hockey staffers are more than happy to see Bowman arrive at camp this year, eager to prove that he belongs among America's elite U-20 players.
Ron Rolston, who will coach Team USA at the World Junior Championship, knows Bowman mostly by reputation, having seen him play only a few times. But he still understands that Bowman could be a valuable source of additional scoring for his team this winter in Ottawa, site of the 2009 tournament, which begins Dec. 26, 2008.
"Drayson has certainly has gotten comfortable in the role he plays out in Spokane and is gifted in scoring goals and creating offense," says Rolston. "I'm not surprised by it. I've watched him develop over the past four years. He's certainly very gifted.
"He had that ability a couple of years ago, but it was just a matter of gaining his confidence where he was at and the level that he was playing at."
Bowman has clearly done just that.
He plays in perhaps the most competitive of the three CHL leagues and has begun to dominate. Bowman's point total has gone up each season in the WHL. His rookie year, he managed 17 goals and 34 points. The next season, it was 24 goals and 43 points. This past year, it was 42 regular-season goals and 82 points, good for No. 10 on the WHL scoring chart.
Numbers like that will do wonders for a player's confidence. Hence, Bowman enters this evaluation camp brimming with positive thoughts. He refuses to be intimidated by the big names among the competition, a 53-man roster that includes a dozen first-round picks and 11 second-round selections.
"Hopefully, they still feel like they made a mistake and, if not, I'll just try to prove my case again this year that they should put me on the team.”
-- Drayson Bowman
"There's no hesitation," he says. "I certainly feel I can play with the best players in my age group and even excel. There are some good players (at Lake Placid). They are all from different leagues and stuff, so it is kind of hard to compare from that standpoint. I certainly feel I can compete and play very well against them.
"I'm excited, you always want to see how you stack up against the best -- or the guys that you hear are the best -- in your age group. I would kind of compare it to the (Canadian Hockey League) Top Prospects Game. You know, where you take all the best guys from the three leagues and you get to see them all in games and practice situations. That was real good for me to see at the prospects game and I expect the same here."
Bowman has always been about competition when it comes to hockey. He played his youth hockey in his family's hometown of Littleton, Colo. But by the time he reached bantams, he knew that he wanted to make hockey his career and felt that he needed to play in the Western Hockey League to get the proper notice from pro scouts.
So, his family relocated to the Vancouver area and Bowman played bantam-level hockey there before being drafted by Spokane and joining the WHL for good in 2005. That exposure led to his selection in the '07 draft by the Hurricanes, who signed Bowman to an entry-level contract last week.
Bowman now hopes he can make the Hurricanes out of training camp later this summer and forego his final season of junior eligibility. But first, he is focusing all his energy on making a team he still believes should have called his name last season -- the Team USA entry in the World Junior Championship.