Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fowler impressing early with Spitfires

By Aaron Bell

Cam Fowler isn't your typical first-year OHL player.

The 18-year-old defenceman with the Windsor Spitfires was selected in the first round of the OHL Priority Selection - twice. First by the Kitchener Rangers in 2007 and again in 2008 by the Spitfires. Fowler was committed to playing in the U.S. Development Program and planned to play in the NCAA.

But after watching the Spitfires' impressive run through the OHL playoffs and into the Memorial Cup last spring, Fowler, born in Windsor but raised in Farmington Hills, decided to make the move to the OHL and join the Spitfires this season. So far, it's been a very good fit.

"I think I've been pretty successful so far," Fowler said. "The first couple of games I was just trying to get used to the league and try to get my feet under me. Now I think I know what to expect so it should be good from here on out."

Fowler said that initially he didn't think the OHL route was the best one for him to take but after meeting with Spitfires' GM Warren Rychel and coach Bob Boughner, decided that it was his best opportunity to get to the National Hockey League.

"It just kind of happened that by the time Windsor picked me up the OHL seemed to be the route that I wanted to take," Fowler said. "It was nothing against Kitchener or anything like that; it was just kind of a coincidence. The coaches were a big influence in me coming to Windsor. They haven't let me down since I've been here. They obviously know so much about the game and have been in the NHL before. They can definitely help me get to where I want to be."

Despite being a first year player, Fowler's teammates aren't treating him like a regular rookie.

He helps with some of the rookie tasks like cleaning up the pucks after warm-up but Spitfires' captain Harry Young said that he is spared some of the other duties like loading the bus.

"He gets a bit of a pass," Young said. "I think the guys have really taken to him. He's a great guy for the room and he's fitting in really well. He's an elite player. He's a rookie on the team but he's really not. He's got the skill to play in this league and so far he's been showing them off.

"He's the real deal."

Fowler made an immediate impression in the Spitfires' lineup. He picked up four assists in his OHL debut against the Plymouth Whalers last month and has recorded points in six of eight games this season. Fowler leads all OHL defenceman with 13 points on one goal and 12 assists.

"He's adapted to the league quicker than I thought he would," said Boughner, a former OHL and NHL defenceman himself. "He's a real smart player. He's a puck mover and he makes it easy on himself because he advances the puck. I think he's still learning his opponents but you can see when he has the puck that his natural offensive instincts just take over. He has a real calming effect back there on the blueline."

Fowler is one of five regular defencemen that the Spitfires roll out on any given night and frequently teams with Ryan Ellis on the power play. The Spitfires' powerplay is second best in the OHL, converting on 32.6% of their chances.

"He definitely makes things a little easier out there," Fowler said about playing with Ellis, a first round pick of the Nashville Predators last June. "He sees the ice better than anyone I've ever played with. He made it a smooth transition for me to come in here. I think we've got a good powerplay going and hopefully we just keep it up."

Fowler is a highly regarded prospect for the upcoming NHL Draft and some experts have suggested that Fowler and teammate Taylor Hall could make history as the first two players selected in the draft. So far, Fowler isn't putting much thought into where he will be selected in the draft. He is more concerned with helping the Spitfires enjoy another tremendous season.

"My main goal is just trying to help the team win another Memorial Cup," Fowler said. "I think if we can do that then the personal goals will come along with that. Obviously I'd like to try to be drafted high into the NHL but I understand I still have a lot of work to do to do that.

"We'll just see how things play out."

Click here to watch this video feature on Fowler

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

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