Statistics might indicate to some that Cam Fowler may not yet be ready for a so called “coming out party” in the NHL. His career high in points were recorded back in the 2010-2011 season as a rookie when he notched 40 points. This season he came close to matching his career high after he put up 36 points. If it weren’t for a knee injury in March that limited Fowler to just 70 games played this season, then he very well could have surpassed his career high in points.
But it’s not the statistical trend in Fowler’s career that could tell you that he will have a coming out party this year. It’s the position that he has now been situated into in the Ducks defense.
Some defensemen are getting older (Beauchemin, Allen) and some are still young and maturing into full time NHL defensemen (Lindholm, Vatanen). Fowler on the other hand is turning 23 this season and when athletes in any sport approach the age of 23 they are beginning to mature and enter the prime of their career. As Fowler now hits his prime, he should most certainly have a lot more responsibilities and opportunities to solidify himself as a relied upon #1 defenseman on a contending team.
There are plenty of informative scouting reports and statistics besides goals and assists to tell you that Cam Fowler is ready to emerge as a top defenseman in the league. If you take away a lockout shortened season that saw Fowler transport from the Swedish league back to the NHL in which his ice time was diminished noticeably, then you would realize that since his rookie season and minus that shortened season, Fowler’s ice time has gone up by nearly a minute every season. Indicating that Bruce Boudreau is most likely starting to trust Fowler more and more as he gains experience in the league and develops his game. And now that he starts to get into his prime, Fowler should be averaging at least 25 minutes per game compared to the 23:52 that he saw last season.
Fowler should also be able to produce more offensively this coming season given the ice time opportunities, the stage of his career and the other surrounding defenseman on the team.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, Francois Beauchemin is too old to be relied upon to occupy a heavy duty role in all situations for the Ducks defense this season. And defensemen such as Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm are still too young to be trusted to be the quarterbacks of the Ducks power play. Leaving the opportunity to fall in the hands of Cam Fowler. Will Fowler be able to produce more offensively? The Hockey News scouting report on Cam Fowler says that Fowler has tremendous poise and confidence. He is also known for his tremendous skating abilities, hockey sense and offensive instincts. Confidence? Poise? Offensive prowess? On the verge of hitting his prime? Opportunities? I can’t think of a reason why Fowler wouldn’t be able to excel this season.
You can compare his upcoming situation with this team to P.K Subban. In Subban’s first full season in the NHL with Montreal at the age of 21, he put up 38 points. Fowler at the age of just 18 entering his first season, scored 40 points. The next season for P.K Subban was one where he slightly declined, just like Fowler did in his sophomore season. Subban was still young at this stage of his career and still maturing and developing. And his next season as he began to enter the prime of his career, in a shortened season, Subban played just 42 games put up 38 points and won a Norris Trophy.
I am not suggesting that Cam Fowler will win a Norris trophy this coming season. I am however trying to point out that young players with the talent level that Cam Fowler possesses might take a couple years to develop and when they hit their prime, they can excel. Just like how P.K Subban’s career started and has gone thus far.
No athlete can take their game to the next level without help. Fowler won’t be able to set new career highs and breakout just by himself.
An offensive defenseman, like Fowler, is going to score the majority of his points on the power play. Fowler scores nearly half of his points on the power play. 47% of his 116 career points have come with the man advantage. If he wants to increase his offensive numbers, he should have enough help to do so. It can’t be that hard to get points on the power play when you’re quarterbacking a power play that gives you options like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to set up and to be set up by those types of players. Fowler might receive more help on the power play this year with Ryan Kesler seeing potential second unit power play time. Along with another new acquisition in Dany Heatley who could provide an extra option on the power play for the quarterback Fowler when playing with the second unit.
There are still other explanations as to why Fowler can succeed this season. We all know his capabilities offensively but a defenseman can’t just be relied on to score. Fowler’s defensive game clearly wasn’t at the level it needed to be early on in his career.
In his rookie season his plus minus rating was a -25 and in his sophomore season he had an atrocious -28 rating. He dramatically improved the next season going from -28 to -4. And last season, saw his plus minus rating rise all the way up to +15. Exactly the same as Ryan Suter, and better than the likes of Ryan McDonagh and Dion Phaneuf. All defenseman who are considered to be the leagues best.
Fowler has shown strides upwards and some downwards. It appears that with the way the Ducks defense will look next season, he will be trusted to play in just about all situations. Which suits his game. And with the confidence he has and the overall upside in his game, he should be able to soar past all expectations and provide the Ducks with a solidified #1 defenseman.
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