As the unusual 8-5 score alone suggests, Tuesday’s game between Carolina and Tampa Bay was not the most meaningful game of the season. However, Drayson Bowman
’s two goals in that contest surely carry some significance.
Those first-period tallies, Bowman’s first two NHL points, could go a long way in building the confidence of the barely-21-year-old. Having been a natural scorer during his junior career, it’s probably not a stretch to say that going pointless in the first six games of his current stint with the Hurricanes could have been the longest such streak of his hockey career.
That’s hardly a disappointment for the Hurricanes, who have not been expecting their 2008 third-round draft pick to post big numbers in a third-line role to this point. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t somewhat difficult for Bowman, who scored 130 goals during four years of junior hockey and is accustomed to being a regular offensive contributor.
“Now I know I can do it, and hopefully that relaxes me a little bit to know that I can play at this level,” said Bowman. “Hopefully I can show the coaching staff and management that I can be effective and that I can stay for the rest of the year next year.”
“He comes out of junior as a goal scorer, but those guys have to get something fairly early to feel good,” said coach Paul Maurice. “He’s had some chances, but it’s good to get two in a game now because I think it helps the hands loosen up.”
Like all but the most heralded NHL rookies, Bowman has faced a bit of a conundrum early in his career. He needs to play well in a supporting role in order to earn more playing time in offensive situations. However, he’s so used to playing in offensive situations that it has taken him some time to thrive in a supporting role.
"For him to score, he’s going to have to play on our top two (lines) and get power play time, but for him to do that, he’s going to have to show a flair that he can put the puck in the net,” said Maurice.
“It’s really weird for me not to judge my game based on the point totals,” said Bowman. “I felt like I played pretty well before scoring the goals by getting some hits, skating hard and getting in on the forecheck just to show that I can be a complete player.”
Besides making him more comfortable for the remaining two games of this season, Bowman’s goals could affect his mindset during the summer as he works to make the Hurricanes out of next year’s training camp. Having to look back on 10 NHL games without a point would surely be a different feeling than knowing that things started to come together near the end.
Confidence or not, he’ll still face stiff competition from a group of young players at next year’s camp. Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Oskar Osala, Jerome Samson, Jiri Tlusty and perhaps even a yet-to-be-drafted player or two will all have their eyes on the same forward spots.
“I’m not sure when (Bowman becoming a regular) is going to happen, if it’s going to take a while or if he has a great summer and really comes back and grabs a job,” said Maurice. “He’s going to be a very good player for us. He’s got a very good set of hands and a really good hockey IQ.
“He’s got a long way to go towards hopefully a great NHL career, but we do believe in this young man.”
Four players - Erik Cole, Manny Legace, Joni Pitkanen and Brian Pothier - were missing from Wednesday's practice. No immediate update on their condition could be obtained, but it is worth noting that the Hurricanes have placed Tim Conboy on re-entry waivers, meaning he could be recalled at noon tomorrow if he clears.
With players at both positions on the above list of absentees, Conboy's ability to play both forward and defense likely contributed to the move.