Sens' Cowen plays for keeps

Ottawa Senator prospect Jared Cowen during practice at the Bell Sensplex Friday Sept 9, 2011. The...

Ottawa Senator prospect Jared Cowen during practice at the Bell Sensplex Friday Sept 9, 2011. The Ottawa Senators rookie camp opened up in Ottawa Friday. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

OTTAWA - Jared Cowen is ready to make a big impression on the Senators’ blue line.

At 6-foot-5, it would be difficult for him not to.

But as the Senators open the four-team rookie tournament Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Oshawa, the 20-year-old Cowen is determined to show he’s got what it takes to play in the NHL.

Nobody is going to hand Cowen, the Senators’ first-round pick in 2009, a job, but there’s an opening if he proves he’s ready.

A strong showing at the tourney would be a good start.

“I want to come out and be consistent,” said Cowen. “That’s one of the hardest things for a young guy is to be consistent. Once I get to (main camp) I want to get back into the flow and play some good minutes.

“I know what the expectations are: They want me to be solid in my own zone and just not make mistakes. If I can do that, I feel like I can do pretty well.”

Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst was pleased with the way Cowen stepped in for Baby Sens during last spring’s run to a Calder Cup victory.

It was especially important because the Bingo blue line had been depleted by injuries.

“He didn’t really have to join us in the playoffs. It was a request that we put in and he obliged us,” said Kleinendorst. “He’d been through a lot with a long year, the world juniors and the second round in (Spokane) in the (WHL).

“We needed him, he got on an airplane and I think he played 40 minutes that first night (against Portland). We were down to about two defencemen and it wasn’t just the minutes, it was the way he handled the minutes. He’s a quality hockey player. I can’t tell you a 100% he’s ready to play in the NHL, but I can tell you a 100% that he’s going to play in the NHL.”

Senators GM Bryan Murray isn’t willing to hand Cowen a job — David Rundblad and Patrick Wiercioch will be fighting for spots on defence, too — but it sounds like it’s Cowen position to lose going into main camp.

“He certainly looks like he’s ready,” said Murray. “He’s been through different stages of development going back to junior. He played awfully well in Binghamton last year. We think he looks like a player and he’ll get every chance to be that.

“When we drafted him, he came off a knee injury and it takes a lot of time to get back to 100%. Being a good player for Team Canada, being a good player in junior and then playing in Binghamton, gave him a chance to play a lot of games and important games to develop.”

Cowen said he’ll give it his best shot.

“I feel pretty good about myself when I match myself with the other guys on the team and other guys in the league, for that matter,” said Cowen, who has been working out with the pros in the off-season. “I’ve been skating with the guys and ... I feel good when I’m out there and pretty close to playing at that pace.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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