The first player to have NHL experience makes an appearance on the list, as Drayson Bowman comes in at #22 at in the Top 25 Under 25, dropping eight spots from last year. Bowman was a player who could have easily been ranked higher on this list, but his first "full" NHL season didn't go as well as some hoped and he ended up ranking a little lower this time around. Even though he was a high scorer in the AHL, it was Bowman's strong two-way play that got him into good spirits with the Carolina coaching staff when he was called up two years ago. Many thought that he could have a top-nine role nailed down by the end of the season and possibly be a contributing piece if given the chance. The latter of which has been somewhat of an issue some of Carolina's prospects.
Bowman was indeed given a chance this year, plenty of them in fact, but it's hard to say that he made the most of them. The goal-scoring prowess he had in juniors isn't there on most nights and his two-way play has been suspectable at best. Bowman not developing into a top-six player isn't the end of the world because at the end of the day, you want to get some sort of NHL talent out of all of your draft picks. However, Bowman's mediocre possession numbers while playing sheltered minutes doesn't speak well about his play away from the puck or his ability to keep play in the offensive zone. To me, that is more of a problem than him not being able to score.
Anyone who has spent a few hours looking through stats on HockeyDB knows that there have been hundreds of players who put up big numbers in juniors that never found their scoring touch in the NHL. A good chunk of them were able to have decent careers as third & fourth line type players, though but they had to contribute in other areas besides offense. This means that they killed penalties, helped drive the play at even strength or at least did something else to contribute. Bowman's two-way game is strong but he was used sparingly on the PK and struggled to keep the puck out of his team's end of the rink. His three goals and five points in 37 games looks a lot worse now because of that.
Down year aside, I think Bowman does have some upside because he was a pretty decent territorial player in past years. It was only one year ago that he appeared to be a decent fit on a checking line with Brandon Sutter, showing the ability to drive the play against tough assignments. This year, his role was reduced quite a bit and his results weren't encouraging, so that might put some pressure on him to up his game next year. The Hurricanes added a couple of depth pieces into the mix, so there's going to be some competition for a few available bottom-six spots and it wouldn't surprise me if Bowman's is one of them.
Would this be a different story had Bowman scored a few more goals? Possibly. Having only three in 37 games is discouraging but his low goal total certainly wasn't for lack of trying as Bowman had a very high shot rate this year. Being able to create offense at even strength is something Bowman's excelled at in his young career and he created plenty of chances last season.
Bowman may never touch the numbers he put up in juniors, but I don't think he is a career 4.7% shooter, which is the rate he converted at last year. After all, this is a guy who had 14 in 37 AHL games prior to the season and had decent success scoring in limited minutes the year before. Bowman tends to shoot into the goalie's chest a lot but we've seen his big shot before and I think it's reasonable to expect more goals out of him next year. How many he will score is a good question, though. Personally, I see him similar to LaRose in that his offensive upside isn't high but he'll get you 11-15 goals in a full season. Probably not what fans hoped for, but it's not a bad situation and his play away from the puck last year was a lot more concerning.
With more of an NHL track record than most of the team's other prospects, one would think that Bowman should be ranked more highly, but he is coming off a down year and it's tough to tell what his ceiling is right now. Is he someone who can be a top-nine player, or will he be just a fringe NHL player for the rest of his career? We'll know the answer to that in a few months but for now, let's take a look at his development and what direction his career can go in.
|2009-10||20||Albany River Rats||AHL||56||17||15||32||0.571|
After being a terrific offensive player in his final two WHL seasons, Bowman was only a modest scorer in the AHL and that trend seemed to last for most of his career. It's been even lower than that in the NHL, although last year could just be an aberration. I mentioned earlier that Bowman shoots the puck a lot and had a pretty unlucky season when it came to scoring. I don't think he will be that great of an offensive player, but it's not unreasonable to expect some more secondary scoring out of him in future seasons.
The only problem is that the Hurricanes have a lot of guys suited for that kind of role right now and Bowman is coming off a down season, which means he might be lower in the pecking order than he once was. A good camp and pre-season could change all of this, but I think Bowman took a step back last season and it relates to more than just his poor scoring numbers. The most a player can do is get shots on goal & what happens after that is often the result of luck. Bowman has one half of that equation down and the rest should hopefully sort itself out. His two-way play is why I believe he took a step back, though.
When reviewing Bowman's season, you'll see that he was one of Carolina's worst forwards at preventing chances & shots on goal. With him playing a third and fourth line role for most of the season, that is pretty concerning. I think his scoring issues will sort themselves out, but Bowman will need to improve a little as a complete player to stay in the Hurricanes long-term plans. Not being able to score is something a lot of players can overcome, but if they aren't scoring and are constantly getting beat up defensively, then it becomes more of an issue.
Right now, I don't see much separating him from some of Carolina's other NHL hopefuls besides his 106 games of experience. He's still young and a nice piece to have around, but I think he needs to do more to solidify himself as a solid NHL-er. With one year remaining on his contract, he will likely get another chance to do that with Carolina next season.
The criteria for Bowman's comparables were non-overage, high-scoring wingers drafted out of the WHL but didn't carry it over to the next level. These players also spent a comparable amount of time in the minors and entered the NHL at around the same age. The good news is that plenty of Bowman's comparable players had long NHL careers, albeit as third liners or grinder. The bad news is that they all had other qualities that made them stick into the NHL, which includes killing penalties and the ability to play center (see Darren Helm & Boyd Gordon). Bowman's listed as a center in some parts, but I've never seen him take a draw and don't believe he is that great of a fit there, so his career going in that path is unlikely. Bowman's NHL scoring rate is also very low compared to some of the other players on this list, so that will need to improve for him to stick around long-term.
Overall, Bowman looks like he could be a good third or fourth liner if things go right for him, which isn't the worst thing in the world. How he looks in training camp this year is going to play a big impact on his future, but I think Bowman has a fairly good chance of staying in the NHL. Whether or not he has everything the Hurricanes need remains to be seen, though.