This week, chicagoblackhawks.com will focus on the four long-time members of the AHL's Rockford IceHogs -- Corey Crawford, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell and Jack Skille -- who have made the full-time jump this season to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fans don’t want to hear about fourth-line prospects. In a world that craves the “next big thing” or the “next superstar,” it’s not easy being a fourth-line grinder, and it’s even tougher gaining the appreciation of the fans.
Jake Dowell didn’t take the glitzy road to the NHL. Don’t look at the back of his hockey card to judge the type of player Dowell is, though he has found a bit of an offensive touch in the NHL.
“A lot of the things that I do are the kind of things that might go unnoticed,” said Dowell. “I’m not going to be the big goal scorer that is talked about or written about a whole lot. You don’t get a lot of the accolades being a role player. I had to do whatever I could to fill a role that was needed here.”
While at the University of Wisconsin, Dowell was put in more offensive roles compared to what he has faced at the professional level. After scoring 19 goals as a senior with the Badgers, Dowell had 25 markers in his first three full-pro seasons.
Lighting lamps didn’t get Dowell to the NHL. It was his hard work and leadership that was his meal ticket to hockey’s top level.
The Blackhawks knew this, and that is also why he was Rockford’s team captain in 2009-10. Dowell never notched more than 23 points in an AHL season and rarely, if ever, played above the third line. That’s why he was on the penalty kill during his first NHL game on Nov. 25, 2007, and he scored a shorthanded goal in his debut at Calgary.
“Those are the guys that you need around; they are the other pieces of the puzzle that make up championship teams,” said assistant coach Mike Haviland. “And Dowell falls in that category. He’s been a captain; he’s been a leader. I remember him back at prospects camp when he was still at Wisconsin, and I loved him then. He’s a character guy that you want on your team, and his teammates love him. And you understand why.”
While some players have a hard time adjusting to new roles at the professional level, Dowell knew what he had to do to make it to the NHL. Dowell follows in the footsteps of the likes of Colin Fraser and Adam Burish, key role players for the Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup Championship season last year.
Even though Dowell might have found his niche a little bit quicker than other prospects, it still was a challenge for the centerman to reach Chicago.
“It was difficult, and it took a few years up and down between Rockford and Chicago,” said Dowell. “It was something that I had to be persistent with and be consistent while continuing to improve my game.”
At the turn of the calendar, Dowell already had marked five goals to go along with 10 assists and was among the NHL rookie leaders in plus/minus.