Top 25 Under 25, no. 23: Corey Cowick
Two years ago, Corey Cowick didn't make a likely candidate for this list. But then again, five years ago, he wasn't a likely candidate for the NHL draft, either. A strong season in Binghamton has boosted his stock. More of the same would see him taking another big leap forward.
After a rocky 2010-2011 season, Corey Cowick's professional aspirations didn't look overly promising. The Ottawa native, selected in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by his hometown Senators, split his first pro season bouncing back and forth between Binghamton of the AHL and Elmira of the ECHL. His grinding physicality, supplemented by a hard-skating style and some offensive upside made him a strong asset in the OHL. However, he failed to find the scoring touch in either of the leagues he played in during the 2010/11 season, posting 4 points in 30 games with Binghamton and 14 in 31 while playing with the Jackals. It was much the same story in 2011/12, though he did find consistency with Elmira, scoring 13 points through 22 games. Still, this very gradual development was a far cry from the contributions the Senators would expect from a player who might eventually get a sniff of NHL action.
This last season changed all that. Under the tutelage of Luke Richardson, Cowick stuck with the Binghamton Senators for the entire season, scoring 16 goals and adding 19 assists, good for 35 points and a .49 points-per-game output. However, it wasn't just the offense that has boosted Cowick's stock with the organization. Rather, it was his special teams ability, which saw his coach trust him in nearly all situations this past year, and the improved decision-making with the puck, noticeable in his clearly improved confidence. Here was Luke Richardson speaking on the forward, albeit in the early-goings of the campaign (text courtesy The 6th Sens):
Both of them had a great weekend. Corey is doing a lot of grunt work for us. Trying to be a physical presence playing on what we call a fourth line. But in this league, you have to play four lines. You have to have four good lines. He has been really strong up and down the wing; getting to the net. He has taken on a really big role on the penalty kill for us and he has done a great job in that respect - he is a big body that can block shots and he can skate. He's been doing really good. He has got a great attitude. He has worked hard. He has made the steps the last few years progressively from junior hockey - being a real big force to a kind of a guy up and down from the East Coast (Hockey League) to the American (Hockey) League, to now a guy who is becoming a more steady (professional) in the AHL with a key role, so that's been great for us to have; but more importantly, (it's great) for him to build his confidence.
The most promising aspect of Richardson's praise is that he gave it back in November, when the lineup was still boosted by players with higher pedigree. Arguably his best showing came later in the season, when promotions of Silfverberg, Zibanejad and the like created openings in the lineup that Cowick helped fill as the season wore on. Cowick was an unsung hero of the B-Sens season, passed over in favor of Derek Grant, David Dziurzynski and Jean-Gabriel Pageau for a call to the big league roster. If injuries plague the roster this coming year, Cowick could offer the lineup an energetic power forward presence. Besides, it's hardly the first time in his career that Cowick has been faced with challenges to improve and learn. If his junior and young professional career can serve as any indication, Cowick will respond well.
Cowick spent the first two years of junior playing with the Oshawa Generals. As a seventeen-year-old, he likely saw limited minutes. Still, he struggled, posting 8 points throughout 67 regular season games and none in a nine-game playoff stint. His second season saw slight improvement, but he was sent home to play for the 67s after his second full season. He was also passed over for the second straight year in the NHL Entry Draft. In his third OHL season, Cowick caught stride, playing intermittently with Logan Couture and excelling in what was also Brian Kilrea's final season behind a bench. Cowick posted a near point-per-game tally with 60 points in 68 games. Still, the thrice passed over forward made it past 159 spots in the 09 draft before finally being taken by Ottawa.
So, how does Cowick go from overlooked junior prospect to late round pick to floundering pro to 23rd overall on our Top 25 Under 25 series? Because, when given an opportunity, Cowick has continued to find ways to make his skill-set a desirable asset. There may be other players in the system who didn't make this list, but might offer a more acute two-way ability, or more rambunctious physical style, or a more refined offensive game, but Cowick has, particularly in this last season, found a way to blend those all together. He was a very useful player for the Binghamton Senators last year, earning trust and building confidence. He projects into a bottom-six role, capable of intelligent contributions on the penalty kill.
To an extent, Cowick's style is reminiscent of Colin Greening: an intelligent, strong skater who provides physicality, with some offensive prowess to boot. One can envision him in a productive role on the fourth or third line, but also creating havoc on a line with scorers and playmakers. His versatility is what makes him an asset for the Senators, and well deserving of the 23rd spot in this series. If he can continue to invoke the perseverance and willingness to learn that has brought him this far in his career, Cowick could rise even higher.