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Cowen chasing big goals with Sens

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators defenceman Jared Cowen made his NHL debut on April 8 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He hopes to make a more permanent stay in Ottawa starting in the 2010-11 season (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images).

He's a big guy with perhaps just a small window of opportunity to make an impression.

But at 6-5 and 228 pounds, Jared Cowen fully intends to make his presence felt when the Ottawa Senators open their 2010-11 training camp in September.

"That's how I've got to think," the 19-year-old native of Allan, Sask., when asked if he thinks he has a shot at cracking the Senators' blue-line corps this fall. "I can’t think that there’s no room for me. I have to convince myself that there is and that I have a good chance, no matter what."

Cowen, the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, was one of the top performers at the team's just-completed development camp. It was an especially good sign, given that at this time a year ago, he was still recovering from major reconstructive knee surgery and couldn't take part in any of the on-ice scrimmaging.

"Last year, it was burning up pretty good and it was the only thing I was thinking about," said Cowen. "But right now, I feel pretty good."

At camp's end, Cowen said he's virtually pain-free on the ice now and "that's what really matters." It allowed him to display the rugged physical style that could make him the shutdown defender to replace the departed Anton Volchenkov — who signed a free-agent deal with the New Jersey Devils last week — on the Senators blue line.

""I can’t think that there’s no room for me. I have to convince myself that there is and that I have a good chance, no matter what ... Definitely, I think I have a pretty good shot. It's a lot of work to do, but this is where I want to be and I think I have a good chance to go at it." - Jared Cowen
"I'm a big guy," said Cowen. "I think I’m known as a shutdown guy, so I’ve got to do a lot of that. Lots of times players come to training camp and try to do too much and try to make themselves stand out. But I think you’ve got to go there and remember that they picked you for a reason, and just go with what’s worked in the past.

"Keep it simple and try to stay calm, because there’s a lot of pressure going on (around you) and lots of people watching you."

Senators assistant coach Luke Richardson, a 21-year National Hockey League veteran, sees a player who can be even more than just Volchenkov's successor as a blue-line bruiser.

"I don't think you can compare too many people to Volchenkov but definitely, (Cowen) is another big body," said Richardson. "And with his reach, he can be utilized on the penalty kill. He’s not just touted as a puck-moving defenceman who can shoot the puck. I think he’s going to be an all-around guy.

"You don’t want to put labels on him, but like (Philadelphia Flyers defenceman) Chris Pronger with his reach and his ability to play in every situation … that’s the type of guy you would love Jared Cowen to be, and I’m sure that’s where he would want to be."

Cowen knows full well that cracking the roster this fall won't be easy. Volchenkov's former defence partner, veteran Chris Phillips, heads a group of returnees that also includes Filip Kuba, Matt Carkner, Chris Campoli and Erik Karlsson, last year's rookie sensation. And the Senators just added Sergei Gonchar, one of the NHL's elite blueliners and power-play quarterbacks, via the free agency route.

But none of that discourages Cowen in the least.

"Definitely, I think I have a pretty good shot," he said. "Just looking at the depth chart and looking at who's back and who's got a shot at making the team ... It's a lot of work to do, but this is where I want to be and I think I have a good chance to go at it."

"I don't think you can compare too many people to Volchenkov but definitely, (Cowen) is another big body. And with his reach, he can be utilized on the penalty kill. He’s not just touted as a puck-moving defenceman who can shoot the puck. I think he’s going to be an all-around guy. You don’t want to put labels on him, but like Chris Pronger with his reach and his ability to play in every situation … that’s the type of guy you would love Jared Cowen to be, and I’m sure that’s where he would want to be." - Luke Richardson
While Cowen's confidence level has clearly risen, Richardson said now it's a matter of ratcheting up his game to match the NHL's higher intensity level. And it has to happen quickly — because of his age, the Senators will have nine regular-season games at most to decide whether to keep him in Ottawa (and trigger his entry-level contract) or send him back to the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs for the balance of the season.

But the Senators want to see Cowen give it his best shot to stick with the big club.

"Right now, we’re just working on getting him better and (giving him) more repetition in working on his skills, all the little things," said Richardson. "Sometimes, with guys that size on a small ice surface, it’s tough to manoeuvre and do everything that you want to do. And as the game gets faster for him, he’s going to have less space to do it in.

"What we want to do is just bring up the speed level and let him work in tight corners. It’s a tough thing to do for a big man but he’s looking good already, so that’s a great sign."

Cowen made his NHL debut toward the end of the last season, suiting up for an April 8 game in Tampa, Fla., against the Lightning. The opportunity made him thirst for plenty more of it. And the sooner, the better.

"It was a good taste, a good experience," said Cowen. "It was a good indicator of where you've got to be and where you are right now. I think I'm ready to play that whole 82 games."



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