By AJ Manderichio
To say Cam Fowler had a busy 2013-14 would be an understatement.
The Ducks defenseman kicked off the season in August with an invitation to the U.S. Men’s National Orientation Camp, joining teammates Kyle Palmieri and John Gibson. It represented the first step toward an eventual invitation to join the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey team in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The work didn’t stop there. After the Ducks lost Sheldon Souray to a wrist injury before training camp, there was more emphasis on Anaheim’s younger defensemen to step up and fill the void. Much of the responsibility fell on the shoulders of the 22-year-old Fowler, who continued to cement his position as one of the top young players on the roster.
After a slow start, Fowler came alive in November. Over the next two months, he posted 21 points (3g/18a) while playing top-pairing minutes. He recorded multiple points in five games over that span, helping the Ducks jump to first place in the Western Conference.
Fowler carried that into the Olympics, scoring a key power-play goal against Team Russia during the preliminary round. He played in six games for Team USA, finishing a plus-4. His selection to the team was celebrated with this viral “Cam America” video.
Once Fowler returned home, it was business as usual. He continued to play top minutes and drew the toughest competition each night, helping the Ducks cement their top position in the Western Conference. An MCL sprain suffered against the Colorado Avalanche would put a dent in his season, robbing him of 12 games.
He returned to record four points in the playoffs, helping the Ducks advance to a second-round matchup with the Kings. The disappointing finish to that series, and the season, served as motivation for Fowler.
“Just being in that situation, a game away from the Conference Finals, we now have that experience as a team,” Fowler said earlier this month. “We know what it takes. That was the main difference. LA had a more experienced group and they knew what that situation was like. That’s why you saw the result you saw. We have that to lean back on. If we get that opportunity again, we’ll know how to approach it.”
Even with the injury, Fowler posted 36 points (6g/30a) with a career-best plus-15 rating. He matched his career-high in assists and led Anaheim defensemen in scoring, assists and PPG (4), and co-led in goal. He also led the team overall in total TOI (1670:24), avg. TOI (23:51) and ranked third in blocked shots (122).
Fowler’s fifth NHL season continues to bring promise of his continued progression. Fowler displayed his all-around abilities, continuously facing the opposition’s best players while anchoring the power play and penalty kill. Paired with Ben Lovejoy, expect Fowler to continue to remain on coach Bruce Boudreau’s top pairing. Those are the same goals Fowler cites in his development this season.
“I like to be a guy the coaches can rely upon in all situations. You see a lot of the young defenseman around the league, like the [Drew] Doughtys, the [Alex] Pietrangelos, the guys who eat lots of minutes and can play on the power play and penalty kill. If you need a goal in the last minute, if you’re down a goal, protecting the lead or whatever it may be, that’s what I’m trying to do. I just want to be a guy who my teammates and my coaches know they can rely on.
“I just want to be consistent with that. That’s my biggest goal – and biggest challenge – for me.”
Most people remember Corey Perry’s amazing goal from his knees against the New York Islanders in mid-November, but Fowler played the role of difference maker in the 5-2 win. With the Ducks shorthanded, Fowler made a nice defensive play along the side boards, knocking a loose puck to Matt Beleskey. The Ducks rushed into the Islanders zone on a 3-on-1, overwhelming New York goaltender Anders Nilsson. Beleskey rifled a shot Nilsson couldn’t handle, leaving a juicy rebound in the crease. Fowler crashed the net and tapped it home for the game-winning shorthanded tally.
BY THE NUMBERS
22, 94, 116 -- Fowler has the most goals (22), assists (94) and points (116) among defenseman selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
23:51 -- Fowler’s average time-on-ice last season led all players. Francois Beauchemin clocked in at second with over 45 seconds less per game. The closest forward was Ryan Getzlaf, who averaged 21:17 last season.
94 -- With his career-high tying 30 helpers last season, Fowler now has 94 career assists and passed Fredrik Olausson for fourth place on the all-time Ducks assist list for defenseman.
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