Cowen hopes to fill tall order

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

The departures of Anton Volchenkov and Andy Sutton have left the Senators sorely wanting in the Department of Physical Blue Liners.

And Jared Cowen is sorely wanting to help fill the void.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder was rocking everyone in sight during the team’s 3-on-3 tournament that wrapped up the summer development camp at Bell Sensplex. As it turned out, his No. 1 target was tough Zack Smith. 

Cowen and Smith had one battle that started in front of the net and carried on into the corner. It included Smith giving Cowen a two-hander to the back of the leg, Cowen running Smith into the end boards, and Smith breaking Cowen’s stick with another slash. In fact, it looked like the two would square off for only the second fight in Senators development camp history.

“It got a little heated for a second,” Smith said with a chuckle, “but luckily it didn’t come to that.”

Lucky for who?

Cowen, Ottawa’s first pick (ninth overall) in the 2009 entry draft, is now more than a year removed from major knee surgery, and he’s moving well. Currently, the depth chart looks to have Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Filip Kuba, Matt Carkner, Brian Lee and Chris Campoli, who filed for arbitration Monday. 

Cowen hopes to squeeze himself in there somewhere come October.

“I’ve got to go in there thinking that, even if there’s not a spot, I’ve still got to try and beat someone out,” said the 19-year-old Saskatchewan native. “Just because they played last year doesn’t mean they’re on the team for sure. Usually it doesn’t go that way, but I’ve got to think I have a chance.”

Cowen thinks he can be a similar piece to the puzzle that Volchenkov was.

“I don’t think if I think of it like that it will be a bad thing,” he said. “He was a defensive defenceman, and I can fill that spot if they want me to. Anything they want me to do, to be on the team, I’m more than happy to fulfil that role.”

Meanwhile, management was delighted with what it saw from the prospects.

Smith praised

Earning praise was Smith, for being what Senators director of player development Randy Lee called “a real leader throughout the whole camp.” Smith played 15 games with the Senators last season, and six more in the playoffs, and he would appear to have a good shot at being a regular. But the 22-year-old is not taking anything for granted.

“He asked to come (to development camp),” said Lee. “He doesn’t really have to come because he’s been through a number of these camps. He’s not complacent at all.”

Said Smith: “The last two years, it’s helped a lot. It’s kind of like a little kick in the butt in the summer, to see where you’re at. I’m glad I came, for sure.”

Also impressing at camp was defenceman Eric Gryba, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder the Senators picked in the third round of the 2006 draft. After four years at Boston U, Gryba is ready to turn pro.

“He’s a real character guy,” said Lee. “Hits. He’s like an Andy Sutton-type guy. He skates backwards hard, moves laterally really well, and he can hammer guys. He’s going to be a good player down in Binghamton.”

Lee also said Corey Cowick looked good at the camp. The Gloucester native, a former 67’s star, is looking to sign a contract.

“He’s the best shape he’s ever been in,” said Lee. “Right now he’s established himself as a real strong power forward-type guy.”

Former NCAA scoring star Bobby Butler will also be an interesting player to watch when camp opens in September. The 23-year-old will have a shot at making the big team.

“It’s all in my hands, I think,” said Butler. “I want to be there obviously, everyone wants to be there. Hopefully I get a chance to show I can play at that level.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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