Sometimes, development leagues are as much about honing one’s approach as they are about improving on-ice skills.
That seems to be the case with Checkers forward Drayson Bowman. The 22-year-old, now in his third professional season, admits to having learned a great deal about how to keep an even keel when things may not be going the way he had hoped. At the end of the day, few players are as confident in their own abilities, but like many others, Bowman has had trouble maintaining that outlook through perceived rough stretches.
“It’s been a roller coaster for sure,” he said. “Any of the guys here will tell you that they’d rather be playing in the NHL, and being sent down can affect your confidence. I maybe haven’t been the best at handling that the last few years, but I’m trying to stay positive now.”
Specifically, Bowman pointed to events that took place at the beginning of last season. He made the Carolina Hurricanes out of training camp – a goal of his ever since he was drafted in the third round (72nd overall) of the 2007 draft – and accompanied the team on its season-opening trip to Russia and Europe. However, playing time soon became sparse on the team’s fourth line, and he was assigned to Charlotte after eight games, just when he thought he had finally made it.
“It was a huge letdown,” he recalled. “I didn’t have a good stretch of games when I came down, and that didn’t help. Guys will tell you that they don’t spend all summer training because they think they’re going to be in the AHL, so there’s an adjustment there.”
Almost exactly a year later, Bowman, no less disappointed at not cracking the NHL team to start the season, says he’s done better at making that adjustment.
“I want to go back to the NHL, but there’s really not a lot you can do about it except play your best and hope it works out,” he said. “At the same time, you don’t want to get too comfortable.”
Bowman’s hoping his new outlook can help achieve new heights. Having recently said that he’s been disappointed with his goal output in his first two AHL campaigns (he scored 17 goals with Albany two seasons ago and 12 with Charlotte last season, both in around 50 games played), Bowman, long pegged as one of the best natural goal scorers in the Hurricanes’ prospect system, is now aiming to score at a much greater clip.
“’Bow’ puts a lot of pressure on himself to be a goal scorer,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels. “Looking back at his last two years, they’ve been good, but he wants to be great.”
So far, so good. After four games, he’s tied with Jon Matsumoto and Jerome Samson for the team lead in goals with three, a number that took him 13 contests to achieve last season, taking his rightful place as one of the team’s most dangerous offensive threats while playing a good all-around game.
That start has given him the confidence to cope with the fact that he’s not in the NHL, but the true test would come in a situation where he falls off the torrid early pace that has him on track for 57 goals, a number more akin to what he posted in his final season of junior hockey with Spokane of the Western Hockey League.
Should that occur, it may not be for long, as Bowman now seems to be more aware of the big picture and the realities of his own developmental curve. Should the Hurricanes need a player to fill a scoring role, he’s proven to be one of the top options over the last few seasons and as recently as this preseason, having earned a one-game exhibition recall after his initial assignment to the Checkers.
In order to make a more regular appearance in a Hurricanes sweater, Bowman now says that the key will be realizing how close he is at a relatively young age rather than wondering what’s taking him so long.
“I just have to remember that I’m only 22 and there’s a lot of time left, even if it doesn’t always feel like it,” he said.