The Anaheim Ducks had nine games to decide if Cam Fowler was ready to stay in the NHL full-time, or go back to his junior team.
They needed just six.
The Ducks on Tuesday confirmed that Fowler, the 12th pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, will remain with the team. The news comes on the heels of Fowler being cleared to play for the first time since he broke his nose Oct. 17.
In six games, Fowler has 1 goal and 2 assists, and played more than 21 minutes in five of his first six games -- the only game he played less was when he was hurt.
GM Bob Murray had told the Orange County Register on Monday that he was leaning toward Fowler staying with the club.
"I see no reason for him to go back and play junior hockey," Murray said. "At this point, I'm not even thinking about that. I haven't made a final decision, but he's given me no reason that he should go back to junior. He's going to keep playing. We'll just monitor it as we go."
If a player with junior eligibility is sent back to his team prior to him playing his 10th game, it delays the start of his entry-level contract. He still can be returned to his junior team past the 10th game, but it's a rare occurrence. The last player to skate in more than 10 NHL games and be returned to his junior team was Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Luca Sbisa, who played 39 games in the 2008-09 season after being taken with the 18th pick of the 2008 Entry Draft. Sbisa currently plays for the Ducks' AHL affiliate.
In his six games, Fowler gave no impression of a player in any way over-matched by the NHL game. On the night he was injured, he scored his first NHL goal, but more impressive was his end-to-end rush that saw him skate past Phoenix defenders and create a scoring chance. As he went behind the net, however, he fell and collided with Coyotes captain Shane Doan, which sent him face-first into the end boards.
A 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenseman, the only knock on Fowler was his ability to stand up to the physical play that comes with playing defense in the NHL. However, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Fowler's high hockey IQ has enabled him to not just survive, but thrive.
"I think what he's been able to do is, he's been able to skate and get inside and his hockey sense has allowed him to defend the way Cam Fowler is accustomed to defending," Carlyle said. "We haven't asked him to do anything he's not capable of doing or hasn't done before."
Fowler has said he's felt OK matching up against bigger forwards in the Western Conference.
"I don't really feel out of place out there," he said. "These guys are bigger and stronger than me, but I think if you can be good positionally, you got to use your feet and use your stick out here, there are guys that have made a living off that, that aren't overly physical, are able to move into the right positions. For me, that's huge."
Fowler also credited veteran Paul Mara, his usual partner, with helping him.
"Mara's been a huge guy for me, just because we've been paired up mostly when we've been playing," Fowler said. "We sit next to each other on the plane. He's taken me under his wing a little bit. It's great to have someone who's been through it. He was a young defenseman in this League, too. He's able to help me with little things."
Not that Fowler has needed much help.
"You have to shake your head to remember he's only 18," Carlyle said. "That's what separates him from the rest of the players in his age group. He's able to do things at a very high level. His compete level is right up there, his execution level is very, very high. You don't recognize him as an 18-year-old at all."
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