|Jared Cowen has come a long way from tiny Allan, Sask., to being a first-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
never had to look far to find reason to dream big.
It was there every time a young boy peered out his window as the family car made its way from tiny Allan, Sask., to the big city in the province. Just outside of Saskatoon, the city he now calls home, Cowen would see the sign and a singular thought would come to mind.
"That's where Gordie Howe is from," he'd say to himself whenever the Cowen clan made its way through Floral, the Saskatchewan small town that spawned the legend now universally known as Mr. Hockey.
This was pretty much all a strapping young lad from Allan, population 631, needed to know when it came time to ponder whether he could live the biggest hockey dreams of his own. And that was long before the Ottawa Senators made him the ninth overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft last weekend in Montreal.
"It doesn't happen very often," Cowen said when asked about his humble prairie roots. "But it's nice to be one of those guys who makes it from a small town. Lots of times, people think it's harder to go somewhere from a small town or be what you want.
"But I think coming from a small town gives you a different set of morals and you're more thankful for what you have. I'm happy I came from there."
He's also plenty happy that his new hockey home is a direct flight away from Saskatoon, where the Cowens moved when Jared was 14. The province's most populous city, you see, was where the family "did all of our shopping and appointments and things like that. We thought it would be a good idea to move there eventually."
Another one of those good ideas: being drafted by one of Canada's six National Hockey League teams. While Cowen had a strong feeling the Phoenix Coyotes might take him with the sixth overall pick –
he talked to them "about six times" before the draft –
he was more than happy to wait out three more selections before the Senators called his name at the Bell Centre.
"I'm pretty happy about going to Ottawa," he said. "When I was younger, I liked all the Canadian teams. I had a (Alexei) Yashin poster up in my room when I was younger. But (the Senators) are kind of far away from home. I was little more familiar with Edmonton and Calgary, but I followed them as much as I could on TSN or Sportsnet."
But it was Scotiabank Place that welcomed Cowen earlier this week on the opening day of Senators development camp.
"It's nice to be one of those guys who makes it from a small town. Lots of times, people think it's harder to go somewhere from a small town or be what you want. But I think coming from a small town gives you a different set of morals and you're more thankful for what you have. I'm happy I came from there." - Jared Cowen
"I've been in NHL arenas before but this was different because I could play here someday," he said about his first walk into his future pro hockey home. "Growing up, you're always curious about what NHL dressing rooms look like. I like the dressing room here a lot. So far, I like everything I see."
Cowen's activity is being limited this week. He's still recovering from reconstructive knee surgery in early February to repair a torn ACL and MCL. While his rehab is right on schedule, the Senators don't want to push their prized prospect too soon. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds and with room to still grow, it's clear he's a big part of the team's future plans.
The knee injury surely played a part in Cowen's slide all the way into the Senators' lap. But neither he nor his new bosses are complaining.
"I think we got a top-five guy, potentially the best defenceman in the draft going into the season besides (Victor) Hedman (who went No. 2 overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning)," said Senators assistant GM Tim Murray. "I think at nine, it was a great pick for us and it adds to our depth."
Said Cowen: "I'm not mad about (falling to No. 9) at all. I think it was kind of a good thing that I got hurt because I was able to come here."
Further proof that small-town dreams, no matter how big they are, really can come true.