Kelowna Rockets defenceman Madison Bowey had a spring that was proof a door never shuts without a window opening.
A veritable perfect storm of injuries dashed the Rockets' aspirations of making a long playoff run. Their second-round ouster, though, meant Bowey was able to join Canada for the IIHF U18 world championship. The Winnipegger, who has been hailed for his speed and his ability to read the ice, was a main cog for the Maple Leaf while helping the country capture its first gold medal at the event since 2008. In doing so, Bowey likely pushed his draft stock much higher than his final Central Scouting ranking — 32nd among North American skaters — indicates, meaning he could be a first-rounder on June 30.
"Going in, we weren't the team to win. It's usually the Americans' tournament to win. We came together quickly. We had great leadership and a great coach [Don Hay from the WHL's Vancouver Giants]. It was huge for all of us, definitely a great thrill."
As a result of that, Bowey is better able to put the Rockets' star-crossed finish into perspective. Kelowna entered the WHL season as a young team with modest expectations, but rolled to the B.C. Division title with 52 wins and 108 points. In the playoffs, though, the 6-foot-¾, 195-pound Bowey was one of the few regulars left among a depleted defence corps. Kelowna became just the second WHL team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit when it scraped past Seattle, but was too knackered for the next round vs. Kamloops.
"It was definitely harder on all of us, but we all stepped up there, We went down 3-0 and that's when we had only four or five defencemen left. All of us stepped up and that's how we came back. Definitely, when we got to Kamloops, we were all a little too tired to compete and it showed on the ice in that series [which the Blazers won 4-1].
"Now we know how it feels to lose. I think next year we will be pretty dominant."
Bowey talled 12 goals, 30 points and was plus-41 across 69 regular-season games, suggesting he will become more involved offensively in his third season. For most of the year, he partnered with fellow draft prospect Mitch Wheaton on Kelowna's second D pairing.
"He uses his size to his advantage, I use my speed to my advantage," Bowey says. "We definitely help each other out a lot in that regard. We're definitely pretty good together."
1. When you break your game down into small areas — not just broad topics such skating or strength — what is something where you really want to improve?
"For myself, just keeping simple, playing a patient game and not trying to do too much on the ice. That's what I was focusing on at the end of the year and that's when I feel I was playing my best hockey."
2. Whom in the NHL do you watch because his, or their, style of play is similar to what you aspire to do at the next level?
"I really like watching [the Nashville Predators'] Shea Weber. [who led the Rockets to the 2004 Memorial Cup]. He's a solid two-way defenceman who contributes on the power play. He's someone I like to compare my game against."
3. Why do you believe you were able to become such a strong skater?
"My dad [William Bowey] always built a rink in the backyard and I got a lot of practice there. He taught me a lot. My mom would say, 'you can't go outside tonight' and I would still go out even if it felt like I was freezing to death."
4. Outside of family, who is someone you credit for helping you advance as a player?
"Don Glennie, my coach in minor peewee with the Assiniboine Park Rangers. He gave me every opportunity to improve and really harped on me about working on my skills. We were young guys but he was tough on us and really made sure we followed along and made sure we learned."
5. Kelowna always gets high marks for having some sweet jerseys, but aside from the Rockets' threads, who has the nicest uniform in the Dub?
"I love Portland's. I've always been a big fan of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winterhawks are pretty similar in that regard. I love that uniform. If I could choose another one, it would be the Spokane Chiefs'. Montreal has always been my dad's favourite team and their jersey resembles the Canadiens'."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.