Giant gains for Cowen

Senators rookie blueliner Jared Cowen set the tone for training camp by getting into this fight...

Senators rookie blueliner Jared Cowen set the tone for training camp by getting into this fight with Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in the first pre-season game. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:46 PM ET

OTTAWA - Big Jared Cowen is ready to take the next big step.

The defenceman arrived at Senators training camp two weeks ago to little fanfare. He was supposed to push for a job on the blue line with fellow rookies David Rundblad and Patrick Wiercioch.

Of the trio, the 6-foot-5 giant has been the one who has lived up to expectations.

When Senators brass sits down to discuss the final cuts Saturday morning, there’s not a chance Cowen will be among them. He has been too good and too strong.

The 21-year-old, Ottawa’s No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL draft who completed his junior eligibility with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs last spring, deserves the chance to start here.

“I think (I’m ready),” said Cowen as the club wrapped up the official part of camp. “I think I can be a contributor to the team in more than one way, being that big guy on the back end, that’s a good spot for me. More than that, I think it’s a need for this team and I can fulfil it.”

Cowen said he arrived in Ottawa feeling good about himself after finishing last season with Binghamton and helping the Baby Sens win an AHL championship.

“I just feel more relaxed, more like I fit in out there and that I’m contributing more,” said Cowen. “Last year, I think I was contributing in small amounts and I wasn’t consistent throughout each game. I think I’ve done that now.

“I’m kind of getting a chance to play the full role that I wanted to be playing last year. I’m just doing my job so I just feel more comfortable.”

Coach Paul MacLean has been impressed.

“I think he’s been great. Every day he’s getting better,” said MacLean. “He’s just efficient. He has a good stick, he defends real well and he makes the easy play all the time.”

Cowen knew what to expect coming into camp. The Senators have good competition on the blue line with returnees Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Filip Kuba, Brian Lee and Matt Carkner all vying for playing time.

Cowen set the tone for a strong camp by scoring twice and fighting Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in the Senators’ exhibition opener.

He can go into the season opener next Friday vs. Detroit feeling good about himself.

He said he knows when he’s at his best.

“When I’m on, I’m hitting a lot and I’m physical out there,” said Cowen. “I’m in on most of the plays and I’m not sitting back just watching. I don’t like to be out there and not have an impact. If I’m not making the other team think about me, then I’m not really doing my job.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @sungarrioch


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