What about Jared?

Along with all of the other very talented prospects who man the blue in the 2009 Entry draft comes the biggest risk/reward imaginable: Jared Cowen.

At 6.05/220, Cowen is one of the biggest players available in the draft. He’s also a very good skater, so good in fact it’s probably his number one asset as a hockey player. Cowen is described as being a shutdown defender in junior and is already famous among hockey fans for his role in the Spokane Chiefs’ Memorial Cup victory a year ago.

A year ago, Al Murray (director of scouting for Hockey Canada’s junior teams) was raving about a kid who was one year away from being draft eligible: “For a player his age and his size, he certainly plays mature and he’s much more coordinated than a lot of those young guys who have a quick growth spurt. He’s another player who’s able to play against the other team’s best players. He skates well, he uses his stick well to deflect pucks and cover the passing lanes and he’s very safe with the puck moving it up to start the rush.”

Early in the 08-09 season, Cowen sounded very confident: “I think I can do a lot of things out there. I’m getting more power play time this year…and concentrating on taking more shots per game instead of not making mistakes.”

Cowen suffered a devastating injury 48 games into the WHL regular season. In early February, Cowen ended up with an MCL sprain and a high-grade ACL injury after finishing a check in a game against Chilliwack.

Cowen: “I felt two pops and kind of a crunch when it happened and I knew right away that it was serious, and obviously I’m just really bummed out that this happened. There are only 20-something games left and then playoffs, which is the best time of the year, and I’ll just have to watch from the stands or on TV, depending on where I am.”

Cowen again: “I had the surgery on February 18. Our team has its own surgeon, but my agent recommended Dr. Stuart (from Minneapolis) because he has a lot of experience performing the surgery. We wanted to pick a guy who NHL teams know. I expect there will be questions about the injury and the surgery at the NHL combine, so I don’t think it will hurt that many of the teams know about Dr. Stuart.”

Apparently there was less actual damage than the original MRI implied, and early estimates had him being ready by mid-July. Which means an NHL team won’t really know what’s going on with him on draft day and will be flying blind.

Should the Oilers take him? It’s a massive risk, especially in a season where there’s good to great talent available at #10. Here’s a list of injuries suffered by Edmonton Oiler picks during their junior or minor league careers in the last 8 seasons:

2001

  • Doug Lynch: A wrist injury that was not properly addressed and then a knee injury after being dealt to the Blues organization have derailed a promising NHL career. That wrist injury came on the heels of a very impressive AHL season.
  • Dan Baum: Was a long shot prospect who had an agitator style and fell victim to concussions. Injuries ended career.

2002

  • Jesse Niinimaki: Niinimaki showed a lot of promise until a (Guy Flaming described it as a “devastating injury”) severe shoulder injury 10 games into the 2003-04 season ended his year.
  • JF Dufort: Suffered a career ending concussion late in 2002-03. Injuries ended career.

2003

  • Marc Pouliot: He was actually injured before the draft–at the Top Prospects game in 2003 when Dion Phaneuf leveled him with a vicious (and imo clean) check. In the summer of 2003 he got hurt at the Canadian WJC camp in Calgary (hip) and that had a major impact on his 18-year old season. It also hurt his performance at the Oilers rookie camp just two months after being drafted. In November 2003 he suffered an abdominal injury and missed the Q/Russia prospects game and he played on 42 QMJHL games that season, finally having surgery in Montreal in summer 2004 to repair the abdominal tissues. He played 3 weeks with a broken wrist during the 2003-04 season. Mono just before the Stanley run.
  • Mikhail Zoukov: Suffered a “serious injury” that wiped out his 04-05 season. Unkown impact on career.

2004

  • Rob Schremp: Suffered a serious knee injury at the end of his second AHL seasons and required surgery.

In the last several seasons the Oilers draft picks have enjoyed better health (Alex Plante would be the exception) and much of their story has yet to be written. If we ignore the injury worry, the argument for drafting Cowen is a strong one. Theo Peckham is progressing nicely but the three college defenders (Petr, Wild and Chorney) are experiencing challenges and Plante remains a project.

Cowen won’t deliver huge offense (Desjardins NHLE: 82gp, 4-7-11) but if healthy this player would be a lock for the top 5 overall.

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