At the end of last year’s training camp, before packing his bags and returning for a fourth season with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, Capitals defensive prospect Madison Bowey said he had a few goals for the 2014-15 season.
One was to lead the Rockets to a WHL championship. Another was to represent Canada in the 2015 World Junior championships. And if he could take one last run at a Memorial Cup, that would be great, too.
Bowey did all three, following a gold medal in the 2015 World Juniors with a WHL title before falling one goal short of a Memorial Cup as Kelowna fell 2-1 in overtime to the OHL champion Oshawa Generals in the championship game on Sunday.
Bowey, 20, led all defensemen with five assists and six points in the tournament, was named to the Memorial Cup All-Star team.
“You’re always hoping your players, after you draft them, have good experiences,” Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said Monday. “It helps their learning curve. For Madison it was very good for his growth and his development.”
Selected by the Caps with the 53rd pick of the 2013 NHL draft, the 18th defenseman taken in that class, Bowey has grown into his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame. He recorded 17 goals and 43 assists and was a plus-38 in 58 games with the Rockets in the regular season and added one goal and three assists in seven games for Team Canada in the World Juniors. He followed up his regular season with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points and a plus-16 rating in 19 playoff games with Kelowna.
“He’s a very good athlete,” said Mahoney, who saw Bowey play in person about a half dozen times this season along with countless other times on television. “Madison skates very well, he’s competitive, he has very good skill. He’s got good size and strength. He’s a good character player.”
Mahoney said an area Bowey could show improvement in his ability to keep things simple with the puck.
“When you get to be one of the older junior players you have a tendency to try to do a little too much every once in a while,” Mahoney said. “I think Madison can keep it simpler with the puck coming out of his end rather than trying to make an almost impossible play. I think he’ll learn when he’s in the pros that you need to move the puck a little quicker.”
Bowey signed a thee-year, entry-level contract with the Caps last year and is expected to begin his pro career with the organization next season. In all likelihood that will be in Hershey with the AHL Bears, but Mahoney is not ruling out Bowey stepping into the NHL next season.
“That’s up to Madison,” he said. “He needs to come in and have a good development camp [July 6-11] and then train hard the rest of the summer and come back for rookie camp and main camp and impress the coaches. They’ll decide where Madison begins the season. We’re very patient with most of our prospects.”
Mahoney likened Bowey’s development to that of Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson, each of whom spent at least one season in the AHL before playing a full-time role with the Capitals.
“I think it’s more difficult for a young defenseman to crack the NHL at a younger age than a forward,” he said. “There are players like [Florida Panthers rookie] Aaron Ekblad, but the further back you get to your net I think the harder it is sometimes.
“John and Karl went down to Hershey, played a lot together and won a Calder Cup. You need to play in order to develop and the American League is a very good developmental league. Mike Green did the same thing. He won a Calder Cup also. They need to play and handle the puck and work on their offense and their defense. That’s why we have the American League.”
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