Cowen gets his Canadian wish

Ottawa makes Chiefs star ninth pick of NHL draft

As if getting drafted in the top 10 of the National Hockey League draft wasn’t enough of a dream come true, Spokane Chiefs standout Jared Cowen got his wish of getting selected by a Canadian team.

The 18-year old defenseman from Saskatchewan was taken ninth overall by the Ottawa Senators as the NHL held the first round of the 2009 draft in Montreal Friday night.

“Growing up you want to play for a Canadian team,” Cowen said on Versus. “To have it actually happen is even better.”

Cowen, who is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, is the fifth Chief to go in the first round, the first since Michael Grabner went to Vancouver with the 14th pick in 2006. He is the second highest selected after Pat Falloon went No. 2 to San Jose in 1991. He is the highest drafted defenseman from the Chiefs, edging Brad Ference, who went to Vancouver at No. 10 in 1997. The other Spokane first-rounder was Ty Jones to Chicago at No. 16, also in 1997.

“Being big in the National Hockey League is important,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray said. “Having size on your team is important. Jared is a big defender who will play a lot of minutes. He’s hard to play against in the defensive zone. He’s a player that gives you a chance every night.”

The top-10 selection is a testament to Cowen’s talent, considering he has not played since injuring his right knee on Jan. 30 and undergoing major reconstructive surgery.

The Senators’ doctor and trainer spent about a half hour checking Cowen’s knee, which was repaired at the Mayo Clinic, earlier in the day.

Cowen had declined some face-to-face interviews with teams after last month’s scouting combine in Toronto because he didn’t want to interrupt his rehabilitation. He works out six days a week.

“I was prepared to wait,” Cowen told the Ottawa Sun about the uncertainty of the draft. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be high or low. I had a pretty open mind about which spot I could end up. Where I am right now, I’m very happy with.”

Cowen was the third defenseman taken but the first from North America, the first two coming out of Sweden. He was also the fourth Western Hockey League player picked.

Center Evander Kane of Vancouver went No. 4 to the Atlanta Flames, followed by Brandon center Brayden Schenn, a longtime rival and friend of Cowen’s from Saskatchewan, going to the Los Angeles Kings. The pick before Cowen, Dallas selected right wing Scott Glennie of Brandon.

No other WHL players went in the first round.

Cowen was the top pick in the 2006 Bantam Draft, the only time Spokane held the first pick. He had a pair of assists in six games in the 2006-07 season and played in six playoff games.

He finished last season with four goals, 18 points and 62 penalty minutes with a plus-27 that led WHL rookies. His empty-net goal in the final game clinched the Memorial Cup for the Chiefs.

Before his injury, Cowen was a plus-16 in 48 games with seven goals, 14 assists and 45 penalty minutes.

Cowen was an alternate captain for Team Canada, which won the gold medal at the U-18 World Championships and expects to be ready for the Team Canada camp in August.

The draft concludes today with rounds two through seven. A handful of Chiefs could get drafted. Only once since 1987, in 2003, has Spokane not had a player drafted. The most Chiefs picked were seven in 1992, when the draft had at least 12 rounds. The last two years three Chiefs were taken.

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