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Cowen primed for big push to make Senators lineup

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Big Senators defence prospect Jared Cowen is determined to play his way onto the Ottawa roster this fall out of training camp. He made a significant playoff impact for the Binghamton Senators earlier this spring en route to a Calder Cup championship (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images).

Jared Cowen believes his time is now.

It's time, the big blueliner makes clear, to take that much-anticipated leap to the Ottawa Senators and the National Hockey League.

"I think I have to," said Cowen, the Senators' top pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. "Coming to camp, if I didn't think I had a good chance ... I might as well not even go.

"I think I have a good shot to stay here the whole year and, hopefully, they thing the same thing."

'They' would be Senators hockey management. And for the record, those folks are pretty sold, too, on the 6-5, 228-pound Cowen's chances of making their squad out of training camp in September.

"It's made for Jared Cowen," Senators general manager Bryan Murray said at the end of the team's recent development camp, when asked about the possibility of the blueliner earning a roster spot this fall. "His size and strength, his ability to play defence when it comes to game time, indicates to me that he's going to have a strong camp and be a strong candidate (to make the team)."

Cowen surely did a lot to sell himself during the American Hockey League playoffs. Fresh off a long junior season with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, the native of Allan, Sask., stepped into the Binghamton Senators lineup and immediately became a huge contributor, playing major minutes for a defence corps badly depleted by injuries.

His impact on the B-Sens during their Calder Cup championship drive was significant, to say the least.

"He's very close to being in the NHL, especially with the way he played last year in Binghamton at the end," said Pierre Dorion, the Senators' director of player personnel. "Jared took huge strides. He was an impact player, a key player for his (Spokane) in their playoff run and on their team. Every time he was on the ice, he had a presence.

"The way he stepped into Binghamton ... he was one of the guys who played the most minutes, played on the top pair, played against the American league's top lines and contributed defensively for us in a very big way in our Calder Cup win. You're looking at a guy like Jared to hopefully take what he's done in the last year and step in for us as soon as next year."

That post-season experience helped accelerate his growth as a player, Cowen said.

"It was nice to go up to Binghamton and get that pro experience and become more of the player I should be," he said. "It was nice to go there and play really well and be a good guy for the team there, so I was happy with how everything went.

"(Making the jump to pro hockey) was an okay transition. I was thinking to myself before the games even started that it's just another game. It was still the same game and the same rules apply. I didn't go out there and try to do things I wasn't used to doing. I played my usual game, just took it one step at a time and eventually started to do more stuff and felt more confident."

In the Senators' eyes, it was just a hint of bigger things to come.

"You look at the way Jared played in Binghamton and it was a big indication that Jared is going to be a big-time matchup defenceman for the Ottawa Senators," said Dorion. "It could be starting in September, it could be in December, it could be (in 2012). But I think Jared is going to play a big role in our future in helping us win."

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