On the Avalanche’s pre-training camp roster right now are two of the top 10 picks in the 2009 NHL entry draft. Matt Duchene is, yes, still on the Avs and was the third player announced in the first round of that ’09 night in Montreal. Six spots later, Ottawa Senators personnel stepped to the stage and said they were proud to select, from the Spokane Chiefs, defenseman Jared Cowen.

So how did Cowen, 26, wind up on the Avalanche’s pre-camp roster eight years later, with nothing but a Professional Try Out contract as a form of security for his NHL future? Because injuries to the hip joints are some of the most common to hockey players, and in Cowen’s case he required surgery on both hips and it was the major reason why he played no hockey at all in the 2016-17 season.

But after surgery performed by Dr. Aaron Krych at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Cowen’s agent told BSN Denver Tuesday his client is feeling better than he has in “three or four years” and is ready to prove to the world he can be an effective NHL player again, which is why he agreed to the PTO with the Avs.

“He’s really anxious to show he belongs on an NHL team full-time again. He’s really come a long ways back,” said Cowen’s agent, Rick Valette. “Hip surgery isn’t what it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago. He’s skating well again, skating regularly.”

Cowen was in the midst of a still-developing career as a young rearguard with the Senators when hip and knee problems started to surface around 2012. By Feb. 9 of 2016, he was traded by Ottawa to Toronto in a deal that brought Dion Phaneuf to the Sens. The Maple Leafs bought out the final year of Cowen’s contract worth $3.1 million, and he spent all of last season rehabbing the hips.

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Cowen certainly has intimidating size for a blueliner. Even before the hip problems, Cowen’s foot speed was questioned. Now, the overriding question is: After a year off and surgically-repaired hips, can Cowen keep up in today’s warp-speed game?

We’ll start to find out in camp next month.

Cowen has 249 games of NHL experience, as a left-shot D-man, with 15 goals and 46 points and a minus-7. In his final season with Ottawa, Cowen had a dreadful 42.6 Corsi at even strength. It’s not an insult, Valette said, that his client only has a PTO in his pocket.

“It’s to be expected,” he said. “He hasn’t played in a while. People will be apprehensive. But he’s very optimistic he’s going to be on the team moving forward. And people forget, he’s still young. He’s got a lot of hockey left.”

 

Adrian Dater

Adrian Dater is a staff writer with BSNDenver. He started his journalism career way, way back in 1988 as a proofreader with the Concord Monitor as a kid out of college (Keene State College), and has wended its way since with a 25-year stop at The Denver Post, 20 of which were spent as the beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche, from its inception in 1995. Adrian has also worked as a primary hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, The Hockey News, Versus.com and Bleacher Report. He is the author of seven sports books, including the best-selling “Blood Feud: Colorado Avalanche v. Detroit Red Wings, The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era” and “100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”, which was published in October, 2016.

  • Pixelrebirth

    Low risk, potentially high reward, provides a hell of a competition for our young D men trying to make the team. If he does make the team, he beat out a lot of talent to get there. Should be an interesting training camp.