|With his first NHL contract now in the books, Jared Cowen can focus on earning at spot on the Ottawa Senators roster at their 2010-11 training camp (Dave Sandford/Getty Images).
can't wait to get start writing the next — and most exciting — chapter of his hockey career.
The Ottawa Senators announced today that the 6-foot-5 defenceman, their top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, has signed an entry-level contract with the team. It was a big relief for the 19-year-old native of Allan, Sask., who is in his third season with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League.
"When you sign the first one, it’s nice. Hopefully, it’ll be the first of many," Cowen said earlier today from Spokane. "It took a little longer than I thought but I kind of enjoyed some of (the process), because that was the first one. I’m pretty happy with it. I’m just glad that it’s done now and I can start worrying about playing and not worry about that kind of thing."
Cowen will head to Senators training camp in September, hoping to land a spot with the team's blue-line brigade for the 2010-11 season. He made an impression at his first Ottawa camp last fall, even though Cowen was still recovering from major reconstructive surgery in February 2009 to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee.
"Last year was weird, just because of coming back from the knee (surgery)," said Cowen. "It was so hard to tell or gauge how well I was doing because I felt so far behind, no matter what. I think I’ll have a better idea (of where I stand) this coming year."
The Senators believe Cowen stands more than a decent chance of earning a roster spot come the fall.
"He's a big kid that we think has a big future in the (NHL)," Senators general manager Bryan Murray told reporters in Buffalo, where the Senators face the Sabres tonight. "We certainly liked his training camp this year and with the progress he’s made over the season, Jared has a real chance in camp next year to be an NHL player.
"We’re hoping this signing gives him that opportunity and the incentive now to do what he has to for the balance of his junior career and have a huge summer … It’s a real important signing for us."
"When you sign the first one, it’s nice. Hopefully, it’ll be the first of many. It took a little longer than I thought but I kind of enjoyed some of (the process), because that was the first one. I’m pretty happy with it. I’m just glad that it’s done now and I can start worrying about playing and not worry about that kind of thing." - Jared Cowen
His first camp experience, which included seeing action in a pair of pre-season games, should also help the cause, Cowen said.
"I know it’ll be huge," he said. "The first camp is the hardest and it’s a big deal to adjust. You’re not sure what’s going to happen and what kind of things will go on. Now you kind of feel more relaxed and you can just worry about being the best you can be on the ice out there.
"It gets you more excited because you don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff. You can just concentrate on trying to make the team."
Cowen, the Chiefs' captain, has also been encouraged by the progress his knee, which still isn't 100 per cent yet, has made during this season. He has 19 points, including six goals, in 39 games for Spokane, which stands fifth in the WHL's Western Conference and plays host to the Everett Silvertips later tonight.
"The last two games we played, it felt really good," said Cowen, who earned a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in his current hometown of Saskatoon. "Hopefully, it stays that way and those two weren’t just kind of a fluke.
"It’s not going to be 100 per cent until I get into the summer and I can do some good strengthening of it in the gym. That’s just the reality of it. It’s been getting better slowly while I’ve been here playing and that’s all I can really ask for. When summer comes, I’ll be ready to really jump forward."