Cam Fowler isn’t going to go first or second overall, but he may be the best player coming out of this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
To call Fowler a stud would be an understatement. Amidst all the talk about Taylor versus Tyler, lost in the conversation has been the excellent puck-moving defenceman. He has an enormous offensive upside and makes the first pass out of his zone better than anyone else in the league with his passing skills.
In his first year with the Windsor Spitfires, Fowler had 55 points in 55 games and his plus-38 rating was good enough for fourth among league defencemen. He’s so good that a plus-four rating in a 4-3 win against the top players in this year’s draft at the CHL Top Prospects game feels normal.
“I wasn’t even aware of it before I got off the ice,” said Fowler. “I have to attribute it a lot to the guys I was on the ice with, they made most of those plays. We had guys who finished and put it in the back of the net, but yeah it’s definitely a good stat to have.”
Most hockey followers will remember Fowler from the 2010 World Junior Tournament where he was a main-stay on Team USA’s blueline, winning a gold medal. To do so, the States foiled Fowler’s four fellow Spits (Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis, Greg Nemisz and Adam Henrique) in the final game.
“I was definitely happy to have the gold medal on my side but I didn’t want to rub it in to those guys,” said Fowler. “I understand it was a heart-breaking loss, especially on home soil. All four of those guys are big competitors and I didn’t want to come in and strut my stuff. They just gave me a hug and congratulated me and that was about it.”
But things haven’t always been golden for Fowler. His decision to play in the OHL was much scrutinized. Originally drafted by the Kitchener Rangers in the 2007 OHL draft, Fowler had already committed to Notre Dame and subsequently told the Rangers he was going the NCAA route.
As a result the Rangers put him back into the OHL draft the following year, where he was picked by the Windsor Spitfires. The Michigan native then decided that maybe the OHL was the better route and backed out on the commitment to the Irish and became a Spit. Something Fowler still believes was the hardest decision he has ever had to make.
“It was really tearing on me for a while,” said Fowler. “I had built a relationship with [Notre Dame] coach [Jeff] Jackson and [Associate Coach Andy] Slaggert and then to tell them that wasn’t the direction that I was going in; it was really tough for me. I wished them all the best and I still have good relationships with them. I still feel like there is tons of respect there, it was just a hockey decision for me and nothing personal.”
Despite the good relations, Jackson made some pretty big allegations towards both the Ranger organization and the Fowlers. In Major Junior Hockey, teams are not permitted to pay players but instead offer them education packages. Jackson, a former coach of the Guelph Storm of the OHL, told the Kitchener Record that Fowler’s father had told him personally that Kitchener had put together a $500,000 package for the future NHLer. Something Fowler and his family think is ridiculous.
“I kinda let that settle itself. I don’t know where that came from or if he was misquoted or something,” said Fowler. “In the relationship we had, he was never someone to say something like, he came from the Ontario Hockey League so I was a little surprised by [the comment], but it’s all in the past and he’s back to coaching at Notre Dame.”
Fowler believes that he has made the right decision after sitting down and looking at the advantages of both directions.
Regardless of which NHL team will draft Fowler, it’s safe to say they’ll be making the right decision and going in the right direction.