Cowan hoping to stick with Buds

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:23 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- Checking his alma mater, you would expect 6-foot-4 Dave Cowan to come out of the Maple Leafs' dressing room dribbling a basketball, not carrying a hockey stick.

The big defenceman is a graduate of Robert Morris, the Pittsburgh-area school which got on the sports map as an NCAA March Madness entry the past couple of years. Hockey? The program is just six years old and the Colonials are in the Atlantic Conference with other under publicized programs such as Merceyhurst, Holy Cross, Air Force and Niagara.

But the Leafs, in their continuing search for undrafted bargains to restore lost picks, gave the Calgary native an invite to their rookie prospects camp in July and he has turned that into a good audition at their four-team NHL tournament. Cowan is in fact the oldest newbie Leaf here, with his 25th birthday in a couple of months.

"I'm really fortunate the Leafs are giving me this chance," Cowan said Sunday at the John Labatt Centre. "I wanted to finish school and get my (hospitality management) degree, so I'm a little behind with everything in hockey.

"A couple of other teams talked to my agent, but Toronto was the only team to give me the opportunity at their prospects camp." Cowan hopes to land with the Marlies and is getting an extra look by default after Keith Aulie was scratched from the rookie tournament to make sure his surgically repaired shoulder was ready for this week's main camp in Toronto. If the veteran defencemen all stay in Toronto as expected (Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, Brett Lebda, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson and Matt Lashoff), Cowan could get a shot at joining a Marlies defence that includes Aulie, Korbinian Holzer, Simon Gysbers and Jeff Finger, if the Leafs really do take his salary off the books for cap relief.

"I know they are full here with lots of stuff going on, but I'm just worried about playing well and getting my opportunity to help wherever I can," Cowan said.

For the rookie tournament games, Cowan had a small cheering section, cousin Sam who attends the University of Western Ontario and a group of friends who made the six-hour drive from Robert Morris.


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