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Cowen big presence among draft prospects

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Spokane Chiefs defenceman Jared Cowen will bring serious shutdown capability to whatever team selects him in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal (Claus Andersen/NHLI via Getty Images).

(Editor's note: This is one in a series of features about prospects who might possibly be available when the Ottawa Senators make the No. 9 selection of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 26-27 in Montreal. Choices are based on rankings by several services, including NHL Central Scouting).

He’s been out of sight for more than four months now.

But out of mind? Hardly.

Not when you’re Jared Cowen and you’ve got a 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame that has scouts salivating around the National Hockey League. While a knee injury at the end of January brought an early end to his 2008-09 season, the hulking Spokane Chiefs blueliner hasn’t exactly dropped off the radar screen in the eyes of those analyzing the prospects for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal.

NHL Central Scouting has Cowen rated ninth among North American skaters in its final rankings – down two slots from its mid-term assessment of 2009 draft prospects. But other scouting services have the native of Allan, Sask., in or around their top five. Still, he’s an 18-year-old who might possibly still be on the board when the Ottawa Senators make the ninth pick of the June 26-27 draft at the Bell Centre.

According to scouts, whoever lands Cowen will be acquiring a serious building block for the future of their franchise.

“He’s going to be a top defenceman in the National Hockey League,” said NHL Central Scouting’s Blair MacDonald. “It might take him a couple of years to get used to the quicker speeds, but I think he’s going to be a big, reliable guy back there.

“We saw him turn his game up a couple notches last year in (Spokane’s) Memorial Cup run and I think that was a pretty good indicator of what he’s going to be like.”

Indeed, Cowen was the breakout star of the 2008 Memorial Cup in Kitchener, Ont., with his empty-net goal sealing the Chiefs’ triumph over the host Rangers in the championship game. His draft stock has been on the rise ever since.

“People don’t realize that it’s more than just a hockey tournament,” said Cowen. “It’s a big deal. There is a lot of opportunity there for each individual player. If you win, that’s great, but while you’re there, you get a lot of exposure. So it’s great for everybody.”

While Detroit Red Wings superstar Nicklas Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner, is his favourite NHL player, Cowen’s imposing size lends itself to a much different thought.

"Physically, (Cowen) looks strong and rangy. Offensively, he has that kind of contribution and if he – despite the pressure we are putting on him – blossoms into half the player that Chara is, he is going to be a solid NHL player for years to come." - E.J. McGuire
“The comparisons that were thrown around (at the Memorial Cup) were that of Zdeno Chara,” Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire said in referencing the 6-foot-9 Boston Bruins defenceman. “Physically, (Cowen) looks strong and rangy. Offensively, he has that kind of contribution and if he – despite the pressure we are putting on him – blossoms into half the player that Chara is, he is going to be a solid NHL player for years to come.”

While many scouts see him as a shutdown defenceman, Cowen is working hard to make more of a contribution at the other end of the ice. Before suffering the season-ending injury five days after his 18th birthday, Cowen had totalled 21 points (including seven goals) in 48 games for the Chiefs.

“Hopefully, people will see I do everything well,” he said. “I think my biggest asset could be skating. For a bigger guy, I think I skate pretty smoothly. I have certain spots I have to work on more often, like my hands and stuff like shooting. That’s something I key on during practice.

“I maybe play more defensively; I think people see me in a shutdown role. But I’m working more on becoming – not an offensive defenceman – but working on maybe getting in the play more, getting more shots on the net.”


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