Top 25 under 25, no. 4: Jared Cowen
Jared Cowen will forever be linked to Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri by one of the coolest snippets ever caught on TSN cameras at the NHL draft. Brian Burke famously asked Bryan Murray if Murray planned on selecting the skilled centre out of London of the OHL with the 9th overall pick. When Murray said yes, Burke told him that he had planned on drafting Kadri with the 7th overall pick. Murray simply said "ok" and they went their separate ways.
True to his word, Burke selected Kadri and two picks later Bryan Murray picked the 6'5 220 lbs defenseman out of Spokane, Jared Cowen. It was seen by many as a potentially risky pick. After all, Cowen's talent was obvious, but he was coming off a very severe knee injury and subsequent surgery that ended his season early.
Two years later, Bryan Murray looks like a very smart man after Cowen put up a very respectable NHL rookie season.
Jared played parts of 5 seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, but it started off with a bang. In his first full season in Spokane, he played 68 games putting up 18 points, while playing in another 21 playoff games in which he recorded one goal. As it turns out, that one goal was an empty netter that clinched the Chiefs Memorial Cup victory. He played very well in the Chiefs victory and proved that even as a rookie he could be very effective. This really put him on the map for the 2009 draft.
Jared's draft year (2008-2009) got off to a roaring start, with 7 goals, 14 assists and a +15 before falling to that knee injury. Not only did it end his season, but it was a tough injury to come back from. Knee injuries are tricky and it took Cowen a while to get back into form. He played well the following year, and earned a spot on Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, but had a tough showing. Fans started to get antsy.
2010-2011 helped to quell some of these doubts. Cowen captained the Chiefs, and was named to the WHL Western Conference first all-star team. He put up 18 goals and 30 assists in just 58 games and played again for Team Canada. This time, he was a completely different player and was a much more dominating force. He finished the season with Spokane and proceeded to play big minutes for Bingo in their Calder Cup run, for the second time in his career proving he could make a difference as a rookie.
His Calder Cup experience helped him considerably and Jared won a spot on the opening day roster for the Senators and never looked back. He suited up in all 82 games (which is quite the accomplishment for a rookie d-man) and even contributed 5 goals and 17 points. He looked at his best this season in a two week stint as Erik Karlsson's partner and gave Sens fans a glimpse to the future.
Jared is going to be a very good player for the Senators for a number of years. His intimidating frame allows him to impose his will on opposing forwards, but he has the skating to keep up with smaller, speedier players. In time, he will only get stronger, and he will get smarter. At this point, it is just experience and learning that Cowen needs, the skills are already there. It is very likely that a few years down the road we will be gleefully watching a top d-pair of Cowen-Karlsson chewing up big minutes and playing well.
I, for one, can't wait.