Here is the transcript from the interview I conducted with Cam Fowler of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires before practice.
Fowler is the No. 3 North American Skater on the Central Scouting Service's midseason rankings and has been catching a little flak on internet message boards for what is perceived as a lack of upside because he hasn't played a flashy, dominant game in certain national televised viewings such as the World Jr. Championship and the CHL Top Prospects Game.
I'll relay what an NHL scout once told me and that is: you can't really gain a true appreciation on a player unless you see him live. Television is a start and gives a baseline, but so much happens behind the play and when a player doesn't have the puck.
It's a sage reminder of the importance of live scouting and why the guys in the profession log thousands of miles on the road in bad weather throughout a season to see these kids play in person.
Here's the transcript of the talk with Fowler:
Bruins2010DraftWatch: Congratulations on the big win at the World Junior Championship last month. What are some of the things you think are what helped propel you and your teammates to the gold medal in Saskatoon?
Cam Fowler: It was an unbelievable experience to be on such a great team with so many great players and friends. I think it just started right from the get-go at summer camp with Coach (Dean) Blais in August. He was already talking to us about how good it was going to feel to win gold on Canadian soil and he and the other coaches showed a lot of confidence in us as players. We bought into the systems (they wanted us to employ) and were ready to go. Another thing that helped was the fact that many of us are really close-- like a family. I think that closeness off the ice had a positive effect on the way we played on the ice and we just kind of took it from there and got great contributions from everybody.
B2010DW: How has your first season of major junior at Windsor gone?
CF: It's been a great season so far. I had a smooth transition coming to Windsor-- the guys on the team welcomed me with open arms and the coaching staff, too. Everyone's been great, and I'll include my billet family; they've been terrific in helping me to settle in, and I think that when you're comfortable, everything just falls into place. We have a lot of elite players, guys who won a Memorial Cup last year and understand what it takes to win at this level, so I've just tried to fit in to the best of my ability, listen to the coaches and have fun.
B2010DW: Ryan Ellis is a tremendous talent and veteran defenseman in the OHL. How has he helped your transition this year?
CF: Yeah, he really is a great player and teammate. Ryan's become one of my best buds off the ice, and like I said before, when you're close friends with your teammates off the ice, that all just translates when you're playing the games. But Ryan has been great to me; he took me under his wing when I got here and showed me around Windsor and really helped me to fit in with the team. We don't play a lot together on the ice, but we do work the power play. He's been in the (OHL) since he was a young kid, so he has so much experience and skill, and has taught me a lot.
B2010DW: I understand that you were born in Windsor, but are a dual-citizen. How did your decision to play for USA Hockey come about?
CF: Yes, I was born in Windsor, but when I was about one-and-a-half, my dad (Perry) got a job transfer (with Ford Motor Company) and we moved to Michigan. My dad is Canadian; he was born in Newfoundland and went to school at McMaster and then the University of Windsor. My mom (Bridget) is American from Grosse Point (a suburb of Detroit). I think the fact that I just grew up in Michigan and was a part of USA Hockey and later the National Team Development Program made it the right choice for me.
B2010DW: How beneficial was your time in Ann Arbor with the U.S. NTDP in preparing you for the OHL?
CF: It was huge. That’s one of the best programs in the world in terms of development. I went in as a skinny, underdeveloped 16-year-old and came out not only prepared for hockey, but for life. The big thing is the international experience. Not too many kids get to go to Russia, Slovakia and Sweden and play against the best players in the world for their age group. It really helped me to get that experience that I would not have gotten in any other program at that age.
B2010DW: Who are some of the guys you were closest with while a part of the program?
CF: That's difficult to answer with just a few names because I was with the same guys for two years and we became brothers. I roomed with Jerry D'Amigo. But I was also very close to Kenny Ryan, Kevin Lynch and Jeremy Morin. But there were so many great guys I got to know there.
Kenny is here in Windsor with me this year, which has been great because we've been teammates going back 10 years when we both played our minor hockey for Honeybaked. It's always nice to have a great friend when you're with a new team going through the same things you are. And, I've managed to keep in touch with "Jet" (Morin), who's playing in Kitchener this season. It's been different seeing him in another uniform, and we're actually playing them tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to the game. The Rangers are one of our big rivals, so it will be all business when we take the ice, but I hope to get a chance to talk to him at some point.
B2010DW: Although your focus is clearly on the OHL right now, have you given any thought to the upcoming NHL draft and taking your first real step as a pro? Are you feeling any pressure with so much of the hype that seems to be surrounding you these days?
CF: Anytime there's those high expectations, you're going to feel a little bit of pressure. To be honest, it's something I've been dealing with with for a few years. With the draft so close, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it. At the same time, it’s all about the team in Windsor and trying to achieve our ultimate goals of winning an OHL championship and defending the Memorial Cup title, so that’s where my focus is; on my team and teammates and continuing to win games.
B2010DW: What are your best attributes?
CF: The best ability I have is my skating. It's just something that has been natural for me since I was young. The other things are my first pass; getting the puck up the ice quickly and joining the rush.
B2010DW: What are two things you need to work on the most?
CF: A couple of big things I'm working on is my phyisicality and being a little nastier on the ice, as that’s something that is expected at the NHL level. I’m also working on my defensive intensity and being more aware in my own zone. That’s something the coaches here have helped me with a lot.
B2010DW: Who are some of the toughest players you've competed against at home and internationally over the past two years and why?
CF: That's a tough one, but I'll say Taylor Hall first of all, because it was definitely a challenge for me to go from using him as a teammate to give him the puck to do his thing to having to stop him, because he's so fast and skilled. I appreciated his ability when I was playing with him in Windsor earlier in the season, but then to have to be on the other side and see all the little things he does, I think it made me a better player and made him a better player. I think the whole experience of going up against one another made us better players. And, I'm happy for him because he really did have a great tournament, and I'm happy with the tournament I had.
B2010DW: You didn't see them in last month's tourney, but you have had some tough matchups against Team Russia. What are your thoughts playing against them, going back to last spring's Under-18 Championship in Fargo?
CF: Yeah, they're a tough team to play against for sure. We learned our lesson in the first game of the round robin against them (in the Under-18 tournament). We got into a run and gun game with them and it cost us. We lost 6-5 and it really left a bad taste in our mouths. We'd had some issues with them going back to when I was a 17-year-old and we had a bench clearing brawl against them, so every time we played them, we wanted to put a hurting on them. And then after we lost the first game in Fargo, we heard that they were stomping on the American flag and things like that, so when we played them again in the championship game we wanted to send a message. So, I think we did that when we beat them 5-0.
B2010DW: Jack Campbell...
CF: Yeah, he's an unbelievable goalie. He's so young, but so composed and skilled. He's one of the best goalies I've ever played with for sure.
B2010DW: What was your favorite NHL team growing up and are there any players you tried to emulate or pattern yourself after?
CF: I liked the Montreal Canadiens...I wasn't a die-hard or anything. I just liked watching them. But the players I tried to emulate weren' on Montreal. I liked Nicklas Lidstrom a lot when I was a kid growing up and watching him play in Detroit. Another player I've always liked watching is Scott Niedermayer. I think I have some similarities to the way he plays, so those are the players I've always tried to watch and take something from over the years.