Should he stay or go?: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

Finally: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.

The Basics

  • Fowler was projected to be a top-three draft pick but slid all the way down to the defense-poor Anaheim Ducks at No. 12 in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
  • He’s listed at 6’1″ and 190 lbs. He also was born in 1991. (Guess it’s time to feel old now.)
  • His next game should have been that magic ninth game, but a broken nose limited him to only six appearances so far.
  • Stats: one goal, two assists for three points and a -1 rating in six games played.
  • His junior rights belong to the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
  • Anaheim has already declared that Fowler will stay with the Ducks this year.

Useless facts and thoughts

For a shameless pun maker such as myself, having a guy named Cam Fowler on the Ducks fills me with “David Duchovny in a sorority house” type temptation. Is it a bit of serendipitous luck or is it a curse? Perhaps that beauty is simply in the eye of the pun-holder.

What’s been said about him

Fowler has impressed Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle, as you can see from a quote in this story.

“You have to shake your head at times to remember that he is only 18,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “That’s what separates him from players in his age group. He is able to do things at a very high level. His compete level is right up there, his execution level is very, very high. You don’t recognize him as an 18-year-old at all.”

James’s take:

This is a tough call.

For one thing, he’s getting real experience with the Ducks. In six games played, he’s already averaging an impressive 20 minutes of ice time per game and even produces on the offensive defenseman level of .50 points per game. Of course, that’s an incredibly small sample, but he seems like a poised player with a beyond-his-years-IQ. Let’s not forget that the Ducks aren’t exactly overflowing with defensive talent, either.

Yet the repugnant stench of defeat hangs over Anaheim like a thrice-worn jockstrap. This team doesn’t look like a legitimate contender, at least from what I’ve seen, so why burn one of Fowler’s bargain entry-level years on a lost cause? Let’s also not forget these two factors:

1. The Ducks are extremely cheap, generally speaking.

2. He will be a restricted free agent during the same summer that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will hit the unrestricted free agent market if they keep him in the NHL this season.

By shipping Fowler down to the minors, the budget-conscious Ducks can protect their prize prospect’s psyche while also staggering the team’s toughest contract negotiations. (The team would spread out the negotiations as such: Perry-Getzlaf in 2013, Fowler in 14 or 15, Jonas Hiller in 14 and Bobby Ryan in 15.)

James’s Verdict: Send him down to the minors/juniors.

Joe’s Take:

Fowler has played like he’s been in the NHL all along so far in his rookie season. He’s had to deal with getting over an injury after taking a tough hit and that’s slowed down the decision making process on Anaheim. The Ducks’ defense is an unmitigated mess right now and Fowler has been one of their better players and getting big minutes to go along with that. The Ducks are opting to keep him on the roster for the long run this season and there’s nothing about Fowler’s game that says this is a bad decision. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he’ll make mistakes on occasion, but having him learn on the job in the NHL is what will benefit him the most. Another season in Windsor would have him spinning his wheels against guys he’s a lot better than.

Joe’s Verdict: He should stay, and he will stay.

The Buzzer: Job of the Hutton

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Players of the Night

  • Carter Hutton has quietly been playing well when used (sparingly) by the St. Louis Blues, but he stepped into the spotlight on Saturday, guiding his team to a 2-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets.

The high-powered Jets fired 48 shots on goal in this one, yet none beat Hutton, who nabbed the ninth shutout of his solid career. The 31-year-old bumped his save percentage up to a whopping .949 so far in 2017-18. He set a Blues record in doing so.

  • On Friday, Jack Eichel collected a hat trick and an assist in a losing effort. Gabriel Landeskog upped the ante one night later – literally – by scoring three goals and two assists in a game his Avalanche managed to lose anyway.

As much attention as Nathan MacKinnon is grabbing (rightfully, as he added two goals to his impressive season so far), this marks the second hat trick of the season for Landeskog. Not bad with it still being 2017, and all.

This was a pretty nasty game between the Avalanche and Lightning, at least at times.

Some key highlights

Technically, you can spell overtime without Alex Ovechkin

(Ovechkin’s already in select GWG company.)

Shayne Gostisbehere scored both of Philly’s goals, but the antics between Wayne Simmonds and Ben Bishop were the real highlight here:

Speaking of Nathan MacKinnon, this is something else:

Mathew Barzal to Jordan Eberle a combination that torments Darcy Kuemper in overtime and Peter Chiarelli, always:

Finally, Jonathan Gibson flashes the glove in defeat:

Factoids

The Lightning keep piling up different milestones and accomplishments, with Mikhail Sergachev ranking among those today (as Tampa Bay won its seventh in a row):

The cold weather didn’t slow Erik Karlsson down (more on that outdoor game here):

Pekka Rinne‘s really been rattling off some milestones lately.

Scores

Oilers 3, Wild 2
Rangers 3, Bruins 2 (OT)
Blues 2, Jets 0
Islanders 4, Kings 3 (OT)
Hurricanes 2, Blue Jackets 1
Flyers 2, Stars 1 (OT)
Senators 3, Canadiens 0
Capitals 3, Ducks 2 (OT)
Penguins 4, Coyotes 2
Lightning 6, Avalanche 5
Predators 2, Flames 0

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fight video: Brouwer makes Watson pay for Hathaway hit

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Austin Watson nodded with recognition after landing a questionable hit on Garnet Hathaway on Saturday, as he understood why Troy Brouwer demanded immediate retribution.

And, as you can see from the video above the headline, Brouwer got that bloody payback after beating Watson in a fight.

Watson (who isn’t that far removed from a two-game suspension) was ejected for his hit. It wasn’t the only nasty moment between the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames, either, as the toxic exchanges included Anthony Bitetto‘s ugly cross-check on Sam Bennett.

(Video or a GIF of Bitetto’s hit will be added if it becomes available.)

Some other penalties reduced some of the advantage for the Flames, but they ultimately still received serious man-advantage opportunities amid all of the violence, and they weren’t able to convert.

The best news is that Hathaway might end up being OK after a scary-looking check. He returned to the game during the third period.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Erik Johnson be suspended for ugly play on Namestnikov?

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Vladislav Namestnikov has been the Mikael Renberg equivalent on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legion of Doom with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for much of this season, complimenting those two scorers with strong work of his own.

The Lightning were lighting up the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, perhaps frustrating Erik Johnson and others. Whatever the explanation might be, it was a pretty ugly sight when Johnson slashed and then boarded Namestnikov, earning those two penalties plus a game misconduct.

Plenty of people believe that supplemental discipline would be merited for Johnson’s actions. For what it’s worth, “Names” did return to action in the third period. We’ve seen instances where players return only to be hurt anyway, so we’ll see if the nifty winger sees any delayed issues.

Johnson, 29, was suspended for two games by the NHL back in 2014, but has a generally clean history otherwise.

The Lightning ultimately ended up beating the Avalanche 6-5, as Nathan MacKinnon almost led a rally with two power-play goals.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

via Getty

Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.