Size matters for Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The Senators didn't let a banged-up knee get in the way of adding some size to their defence.

After taking pint-sized, but skilled blueliner Erik Karlsson with their No. 1 pick last year, the Senators took another step on what you might call the road to recovery at the NHL draft by selecting 6-foot-5 Spokane Chiefs defenceman Jared Cowen with the No. 9 selection last night.

While the comparisons to former Senators giant Zdeno Chara were made immediately, Cowen, 18, has a lot to prove after missing the second half of last season following reconstructive right knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL.

But before deciding to select Cowan, who had 7 goals and 14 assists in 48 games last season, the Senators brought their medical staff (Dr. Don Chow and athletic therapist Gerry Townend), to Montreal to check Cowen out. He passed with flying colours.

KNEE NOT A CONCERN

"We have no concerns about the knee. It's happened to other players in the past and that was not a concern," said Senators chief scout Pierre Dorion.

Cowen won't be ready for physical contact when he attends the world junior camp for Team Canada in August, but he has resumed skating and will be fine for the training camp in September. He has been working out six times a week and the rehab is progressing well.

While many teams want players to come in for interviews in the weeks leading up to the draft, Cowen visited with everybody during last month's scouting combine in Toronto and then told NHL squads he couldn't afford to miss any more time in the gym to keep his return on schedule.

Cowen wasn't sure where he would be drafted.

"I was prepared to wait. I wasn't sure if it was going to be high or low," said Cowen, a Saskatchewan native, who was hoping to get selected by a Canadian team. "I had a pretty open mind about which spot I could end up. Where I am right now, I'm very happy with."

The Senators thought they might wind up with London Knights centre Nazem Kadri, but he was selected by the arch-rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ottawa needs to get bigger on the back end. Cowen isn't going to wow anybody with his offensive skills, but he does play physical.

"We felt, as a group of scouts, that we needed to get bigger," said Dorion. "Jared Cowan is a big defenceman, who is more defensive minded, but he'll play in our top four someday and he'll log a lot of minutes for us in the future.

'HELP US WIN'

"We felt that he was going to be the guy that is going to help us win the most down the road.

"That's the reason why we took him.

"We picked him ninth and I can't speak for the other eight teams, but we're extremely happy to get him. He was one of the guys we figured we'd get a shot at, depending on how the draft went, and he fell into our lap."

Last week, Cowen resumed skating for the first time since the injury and felt good about his progress.

"The injury is right on schedule. It's been a good learning process (to try and get back), but it's a lot of hard work," said Cowen.

GM Bryan Murray said the club needs the type of assets Cowen brings.

"We're really pleased that we were able to get a strong blueliner that should play in the league for a long time," said Murray.

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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