-- The stitches in his chin and above his right eye, not to mention his play, are qualities of a hockey veteran, but Cam Fowler
still is a baby-faced kid compared to most in the NHL.
Fowler exceeded expectations last season, not only in making the Anaheim Ducks
' roster a few months after being drafted, but also by becoming an integral part of the club's defense corps despite not turning 19 until the season was two months old.
Now the question is what to expect from Fowler in his second season, and the answer is the team will try to contain said expectations.
"You have to recognize that he's only a second-year player and he hasn't turned 20 yet," said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
. "He's got a lot of hockey in front of him. We think if he can come in and duplicate what he did last year that we'd be satisfied with that. We don't want to put any more pressure on him to say he's got to be this or he's got to be that -- he just has to come in and be Cam Fowler
Defense - ANA
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 40
SOG: 123 | +/-: -25
Added Fowler: "I had a good talk with the coaches and management, and I think the general consensus is they don't want to put too much pressure on me. I think they were happy with what I was able to do last year and what I was able to contribute to the team. I want to be able to be a guy who logs a lot of minutes and plays in all situations. I just want to try and complete my game a little bit more, so that's my goal for this season."
Teenage defensemen in the NHL are a rarity. There have only been 32 defensemen to play at least 75 games during an age-18 or age-19 season, and only Phil Housley and Scott Stevens
have done it as 18- and 19-year olds.
Fowler played 76 games during the regular season and six more in the postseason, and he was an impact player. His 10 goals and 40 points were second among rookie defensemen last season, and his point total matched Scott Niedermayer
in 1992-93 for the eighth-most by a teenage defenseman in League history.
The names ahead of Fowler include Housley (twice), Stevens, Ray Bourque
, Larry Murphy
, Bryan Berard
and Tyler Myers
"I heard when I first got here that he was a really good player and had really good skating abilities and good vision," veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin
, who returned to the Ducks from the Toronto Maple Leafs
in a February trade, said. "As soon as I had the first practice with the team, I noticed him right away. He's got his own style. He's really strong in his legs, really powerful. He makes special plays on the ice that not everybody can make."
Fowler also was one of three rookie defensemen to average more than 22 minutes per game of ice time, joining Montreal's P.K. Subban
and Washington's John Carlson
. He continued to play more than 22 minutes per game in the postseason, proof that he didn't wear down as some younger players in their first NHL season often do.
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He had a goal and 4 points for the Ducks, who lost in six games to Nashville in the first round. Fowler skated 25:53 in Game 6 against the Predators as his team was eliminated -- the third-most ice time he'd seen in a game that season and second-most in a contest that didn't include overtime.
"It is good to have that first year of experience," Fowler said. "Coming into the season last year I was nervous and just learning a lot of things as I went along. I'm still doing that now, but I have those (82) games of experience under my belt. That experience goes a long way. We have a lot of familiar guys around here from last year and that helps as well.
"I'm still a young guy in the League and someone who needs to take in all the information I can. I still have a bunch of questions and a bunch of guys here to talk to, and that's really important."
He will start the season paired with Beauchemin when the Ducks play the Buffalo Sabres
in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki (1 p.m. ET, TSN2). Fowler's defense partner was a fluid situation at times last season, but he and Beauchemin spent a lot of time playing together against Nashville in the playoffs.
Fowler also will help quarterback one of the League's most dangerous power-play units, with Lubomir Visnovsky
. His stated goal to play in all situations also would mean some added responsibilities on the penalty kill, because that's not something he participated in much last season.
While he might have slipped further than expected on draft day -- he was No. 5 among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings but fell to the Ducks at No. 12 -- Fowler never let it bother and continued to excel in the same way he did in junior hockey, a resume that included two gold medals in international play and a Memorial Cup.
"He's a very gifted young defenseman," Carlyle said. "He can skate, he can shoot, he can read plays, he can do a lot out there, but I think it would be unfair to him to heap any more pressure on him than what he had on him. There was a lot of pressure on him last year as a first-year player to make the team and play the 80-game schedule. In the end I think he was one of the better players on our team against Nashville (in the playoffs) and hopefully he can build on that, but we're not going to throw that on his shoulders for sure."