Photo credit: Chris Gordon
The latest incarnation of Capitals Development Camp doesn’t have the star power of years past — there are no sure-fire stars like Nick Backstrom or exotic Russians like Evengy Kuznetsov. Still, there are surely some future pros skating at Kettler this week. In addition to the obvious ones — fellow first-round picks and polar opposites Tom Wilson and André Burakovsky — there are guys like Madison Bowey, a second-round selection (53th overall) at last month’s draft. Bowey is a fast, two-way defensemen who’s acquitted himself well playing for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL and Team Canada in the World Juniors. He’s also a pretty nice dude. Following the second-to-last scrimmage of Dev Camp, I chatted with the 18-year-old.
How has your at experience at Development Camp been so far?
It’s unreal. Every kid dreams about getting the NHL and I landed in a great spot. I’m pretty impressed with it so far. . . I like the competitive, quick games. The thing is first two games were a little hard to adjust to. It’s the first game since April that I’ve played. I think I’m getting used to it now. I think today was a lot better showing. I was a lot more comfortable with my game and my passing. So far it’s been really cool. The hockey’s been really competitive, which I like.
You’ve said Jarome Iginla is one of your idols, as one of the few black players you could look up to in the NHL. Tell me about that.
Growing up you don’t see too many black players playing. There’s starting to be a little more now. I think Jarome Iginla’s obviously one of the role models and leaders for that group. He’s a great player and really a great guy off the ice too, so I think he’s a great role model for really anyone to look up to. He was kinda my hero growing up.
Was it odd being the only black player on the team as kid or has hockey evolved?
You don’t really notice it too much. Everyone treats you the same. It’s not a big deal anymore; it’s a new generation.
You’re from Winnipeg, which didn’t have a team for most your life. Who did you root for?
I was a Flames fan growing up, mainly because of Jarome Iginla. I went to a lot of Flames games too because I have some family that lives there. They were definitely my favorite team growing up.
You played baseball too for a while. When did you give that up?
When I was 15, when I made my jump from midget to WHL, I had to hang it up and focus primarily on hockey and working out all summer. It was a great hobby for me and lot of fun, but I had to make a decision.
I assume that was the point when you realized hockey could become your career?
Yeah, when I was growing up I was always one of the better players in Manitoba. An eye opener was when I went to the WHL, training hard and getting better everyday there. I think that’s when I realized I had a chance. Playing in Kelowna is a great system. Playing big minutes there is when I really realized I had a chance.
Speaking of juniors, it must be hard to be a 16-year-old kid away from home, right?
It’s a pretty big jump. I lot of kids, honestly, can’t do it when they’re 16. That’s when a great billet (host family) comes in. My billet family is amazing over there in Kelowna. They really kinda brought me home and treated me like their own kid. That was awesome for me. You definitely mature playing in junior. I definitely matured a lot more than most 18-year-olds.
A big asset for you is your speed. Has it always been that way?
I’m pretty fast off the ice, but on the ice I think practicing in my back yard growing up was when it really developed.
You must still work on it?
Definitely. Now I’m trying to work on my skills because you can always get faster. That’s what I’m doing the the gym too. More explosiveness, trying to get quicker.
How do you need to improve to become an NHL player?
I have to get a little stronger. I think being a solid defensive player in the d-zone is something I need to improve on too and I think I’m definitely improving a lot on it. Right now, it’s just maturing as a player and getting better in every aspect.
What does the next year hold for you?
Hopefully, I’ve had a good camp coming in here and making a good impression. Going to to Kelowna and having a good year there as well. Hopefully, our team can do really well and I get a chance to make the World Junior team for Team Canada. Those are my main goals right now and that’s what I’m trying to train for over the summer.