With all the injuries the Ducks have suffered on defense this year — Sheldon Souray and Luca Sbisa most notably — the team has been forced to rely on 21-year-old Cam Fowler more than ever.
And according to head coach Bruce Boudreau, Fowler has been up to the challenge.
“He’s finally grown up and now he can play defense,” Boudreau told the OC Register. “And I don’t mean that in a negative way.
“We’re putting him out in all defensive situations, whereas in the past it would not be that way.”
Fowler, the club’s first-round pick (12th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, made the leap from junior to the NHL as a 18-year-old and did it with aplomb, scoring 10 goals and 40 points in 76 games in his rookie campaign.
Of course, Fowler also went an ugly minus-25 that year, had poor possession/shot differential statistics (notably Corsi) and wasn’t trusted in a lot of key defensive moments… which isn’t a good thing for a defenseman.
But three years later — despite not turning 22 ’til December, Fowler has over 200 games of NHL experience — he’s matured into a more all-around blueliner, leading all skaters in TOI per game (23:17) and all Ducks defensemen in points (13).
The noted improvement in his game has Fowler thinking of a possible spot on Team USA for the ’14 Winter Olympics in Sochi. American GM David Poile noted recently that he and his advisers have whittled their defenseman shortlist to 12 — one of which is 19-year-old Preds defenseman Seth Jones — so it stands to reason Fowler could be in the mix of 12, especially since Poile said the best players will go, regardless of age.