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.”