After winning a World Junior Championship and a Memorial Cup, Cam Fowler’s dream season should continue with a top-10 selection in the upcoming draft.
The 6-foot-2, 190 pound defenseman from Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League is one of the three elite blue liners in this year’s class along with Brandon Gormley and Erik Gudbranson. There’s no widely-held consensus on who is more highly rated among the three, although Fowler clearly has the edge in terms of mobility.
“He skates very, very well and can play a lot of minutes,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manager. “He’s a guy that can affect the outcome of a game just as much as the guy that can score the big goal or make the pretty play.”
Fowler did not have any problems scoring during his first OHL season after a successful stint in the U.S. national team development program. He racked up 55 points in 55 games with Windsor, 47 of them assists, to rank seventh among league defensemen in scoring.
While those numbers may suggest that he’ll be an offensive dynamo in the NHL, the Hurricanes project him as more of a complete package who will use his speed and puck-moving abilities to avoid danger and start rushes but won’t necessarily be the one who puts the puck in the net.
“Our perspective is that we don’t see that high-end offense to his game,” said Karmanos. “That’s not to say he’s not a very good player, but some of those offensive guys that put up the points on the back end maybe don’t have as complete of a game as Fowler shows. He’s a two-way defenseman that skates very, very well and can play a lot of minutes.
“I don’t think there’s a question that he’ll play, it’s just a question of how much offense he’ll bring at that next level.”
If Fowler’s offensive statistics benefited by playing on a powerhouse junior team, it may have prevented NHL teams from getting an accurate read on his defensive skills. Fowler finished the season with a +38 plus/minus rating that seems staggering at first but was more or less in line with the rest of the Spitfires’ roster (keep in mind that they defeated Brandon in the Memorial Cup Final by a 9-1 score – it wasn’t even close). He obviously can’t be faulted for his situation, but he wasn’t challenged in his own end the way he may have been on a weaker team.
“He’s an adequate defender that is more of an angle-and-contain guy as he is not overly physical,” said Hurricanes Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald. “He’s such a good skater that he often uses that to get out of trouble.”
With the draft featuring a drop-off in defensive talent after the first three players, it’s highly possible that Fowler, Gormley and Gudbranson will round out the top five in some order after consensus one-two picks Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, which would keep them out of the Hurricanes’ range at No. 7. However, if a forward or two sneak in and other organizations prefer Gormley or Gubranson, it’s not impossible that Fowler could be available to Carolina.
Even with the Hurricanes’ historical hesitations about taking defensemen in the first round, they would have a hard time passing on him in that scenario.
“I make the comparison to how Wade Redden played when he was in junior with the precision of his passing,” said MacDonald. “Some nights he could almost sit back in his rocking chair and snap the puck around while making it look easy.
“He’s a great distributor of the puck on the power play, and is a premiere puck-moving type that everyone covets in the NHL.”