BRANDON — Cam Fowler made an important choice for his hockey future last summer, but the next one is almost out of his hands.
The smooth-skating defenceman had a full scholarship offer to Notre Dame of the NCAA on the table, and Fowler weighed the decision before ultimately coming back and joining the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.
“We felt the OHL, especially Windsor, was the best way to get me prepared for the NHL, and that’s what I want to do,” Fowler said. “Hockey is my passion, and that’s what I want to do for a living some day.”
All signs point to Fowler being able to accomplish that goal, and there’s plenty of attention on him at the Memorial Cup, since he’s one of the top prospects for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles this summer.
Fowler has no problem with the intensity of the spotlight but admits there have been a few challenges.
“It comes with the territory,” said Fowler, who had eight goals and 55 points in 55 games during the regular season and added three goals and 14 points in 19 playoff games. “Anytime you’re projected to be a pick like that, you’re going to have some scrutiny and you’re expected to perform night-in and night-out. It’s kind of been a bumpy ride for me. During the season, I’ve had some ups-and-downs, but in the second half, it’s been real positive for me, and I felt I’ve had a good playoff. Here is where I really need to perform because I’m on a huge stage.”
Fowler found himself on a huge stage with the U.S. at the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship in Saskatoon, and that event ended pretty well for him.
That thrilling 6-5 OT victory over Canada still resonates months later.
“It was a huge experience for me,” Fowler said. “Playing on the stage like that against the best players in the world and being able to perform and win the gold medal, I can definitely go back to there and use that as experience and not let the pressure get to me.
“It was Hockey Canada there for a long time with the streak they had, and for us to go into Canadian territory and take that gold medal was a really special feeling.
“Singing your national anthem at the blueline was something I’ll never forget.”
Fowler’s passion for hockey runs deep.
“My dad was Canadian, and he always instilled the hockey love on me. I started playing when I was three or four, and ever since I put the skates on, I really found a love for the game,” said Fowler, who was born in Windsor, Ont., but only spent about 18 months there before moving to Farmington Hills, Mich.
“I was one of the weaker players when I was young actually, but I continued to progress, and, in my midget minor year, I thought I might have a future in this game.”
Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner believes Fowler’s future is bright.
“Cam is your typical puck-moving defenceman. He gets himself out of trouble, just with his feet and his vision. He takes three or four hard strides around the net, and he usually makes the pass tape-to-tape to the open guy. You can tell he’s getting more confident. His game is getting better and better.
“He’s learning to play the game the right way, and he’s brought his game up leaps-and-bounds defensively. It’s only his first year in this league, and he’s starting to dominate now. His urgency and intensity on the puck has gotten better, and he’s another guy that is going to play (in the NHL) for a long time.”