As part of the AnaheimDucks.com annual Player Reviews, we will be featuring a different Ducks player throughout the coming weeks, in numerical uniform number order. Each review will include key stats, a highlight from last season and an outlook for 2016-17.
By Adam Brady
Cameron Matthew Fowler has been such a prominent part of the Ducks franchise for so long, it’s easy to forget he’s still only 24 years old. In a league where young defensemen don’t typically come into their own until their mid-20s, Fowler has developed into one of the NHL’s most reliable young blueliners through 414 career regular season games and 49 playoff battles.
Fowler played 69 regular season games last season (having missed nearly a month with a knee injury), tallying five goals and 23 assists while averaging a team-high 22:47 minutes of time on ice per game. But you have to look beyond the numbers to measure the worth of Fowler, who continues to excel as a skating, puck-moving defenseman who is called on to shut down opposing top lines every night. He was frequently on Anaheim’s top units on the power play and penalty kill, and has developed into one of the top “character guys” in a locker room that has no shortage of veteran leadership.
Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was by Fowler’s side from the start of the Windsor, Ontario native’s career, having been at the Anaheim table when Fowler was taken with the 12th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft. Carlyle coached Fowler in his first two NHL seasons, and he had this to say about the young defenseman during his press conference after being hired by Anaheim for a second coaching stint:
“When I saw how Cam Fowler was able to have a presence at the NHL level as an 18-year-old, and to watch his development to where he is today, he’s a prototype NHL defenseman. He has great qualities. He can skate, move the puck and get involved with the rush. He’s a joy to coach.
“But when you see the development of an 18-year-old to where he is now, there are some people that need to take some credit along the way. I’d credit the assistant coaches and the strength and conditioning coach. Cam was basically a 185-pound string bean that can skate. Now he’s a 215-pound man that can dominate the game with his skating ability. Those are the things you look back on and reflect on.”
Fowler scored one of the bigger goals in an eventual 5-2 victory over Nashville in Game 5 of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the Ducks clinging to a one-goal lead in the third and skating with a man advantage, Fowler whipped a slapshot from the point that beat goalie Pekka Rinne glove side, virtually blowing the roof off Honda Center. The Ducks were 0 for 5 on the power play before that goal, and were in a 1 for 17 drought in the series.
Fowler was the subject of a number of trade rumors around the time of the Draft, a dynamic that could continue the rest of this offseason as he heads into his seventh NHL campaign. For now he remains a renowned member of a corps of young Anaheim defensemen – which includes Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Simon Despres – that is among the best in the NHL. Fowler was a top-pair defenseman last season, and should he remain on the Ducks roster, he would appear to be a lock to be relied on in that position yet again in 2016-17.