Most of the players I have gone over so far in the Top 25 are those who are another couple years or so away from being ready for the NHL. That isn’t the case with today’s subject, Drayson Bowman, as he has gotten his fair share of chances in the NHL and after last season, it appears that he is ready to start contributing. When Bowman was drafted in 2007, he was billed as a dangerous goal-scorer with a dangerous slap-shot and he has more than lived up to that reputation in junior hockey. During his WHL days, Bowman had back-to-back 40 goal seasons and was one of the Spokane Chiefs’ best forwards. Like many prolific CHL forwards, Bowman strong offensive output hasn’t transitioned to the pros but what makes him stick out is that he has learned the other areas of the game well and has shown the ability to play outside of a scoring role on the Hurricanes.
Bowman has never put up impressive boxcar numbers either the AHL or NHL and he didn’t make much of an impact during his first two “seasons” with the Hurricanes, but last year was a different story. Most fans remember Bowman’s two-goal performance against Vancouver back in December and how it took him 23 games to score another one, but he was contributing in other areas that weren’t showing up on the score sheet. Bowman posted one of the strongest Corsi ratings at even strength among Carolina forwards who played at least 30 games last year, meaning that he was very good at moving the puck into the opponent’s end and keeping it there. The Hurricanes had a shortage of players who could do this last season, so Bowman definitely made his presence felt in the top-nine while he was there. Bowman was also very good at creating and preventing scoring chances during his stay in Raleigh, as well.
What makes Bowman’s performance impressive is that he was able to do this while playing relatively difficult minutes. He spent most of his time playing on either Eric Staal or Brandon Sutter’s line, neither of which are protected, and had to take on the tough minutes that comes with them. He managed to do more than a fine job territorially in those situations but struggled to score goals. His shooting percentage was only 8.6% last season and he was managing to have nearly two shots per game, so bad luck definitely played a role in his scoring woes. We have seen Bowman’s finishing ability in junior hockey and, to a lesser extent, in the minors so he is likely capable of putting up more goals in a longer period of time. That being said, six goals and 13 points in a 37 game sample isn’t horrible for a player who was called-up in the middle of the year.
Bowman’s primary goal for next season is going to be making the Hurricanes out of camp and finding a way to stay on the club full-time. Him being able to tilt play in the Hurricanes favor while being used in a tough-minute role tells me that he is NHL ready now. I think that he is good enough to make the team as a third-liner next season but he is going to have trouble beating out the likes of Jiri Tlusty, Chad LaRose and Patrick Dwyer for a third-line spot, so it’s very possible for Bowman to end up on the fourth line or back in Charlotte come October. He deserves a serious look from the coaching staff, though because of his play last season.
The problem is that Bowman has played so few games in the NHL that we don’t know if he can play in a top-nine role on a contending team, which the Hurricanes plan to be next year from the sound of things. We know that he is ready for the NHL but what can he do beyond what he has showed us in the last 69 games? As of right now, Bowman is looking more like he is suited for a checking role rather than being the goal-scorer than many thought he would be coming out of the draft. It is a little ironic that he has blossomed into a third-liner because size and strength was his biggest areas of concern when he was younger but his play away from the puck has come a long way over the last year and he played very well defensively for a guy his size. His ceiling might be higher than that but it seems that a bottom-six role might be what suits Bowman the best for now until he can show us otherwise. Thankfully, he has the time to do so.