Congratulations are due today to outgoing Broncos Captain Justin Dowling. This season’s Broncos leading scorer has signed with the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League for the remainder fo the season. I was able to catch with Justin and discuss the move with him yesterday before he left the Credit Union iPlex and hopped on a plane for BC.
It’s a well deserved opportunity for Dowling who had to take on a massive load of responsibility with an injury riddled Swift Current club this year. He went from being part of a one-two punch with former Captain Cody Eakin to wearing the “C” himself after Eakin got dealt. Dowling handled the responsibility well while continuing to develop a very underrated two-way game.
His production stayed at basically the same per game rate even though the Broncos scored 50 fewer goals this season than in 2009-10. Dowling missed 9 games to injury and was still involved in 37% of Swift Current goals. That’s actually an improvement over 34% last year. He did it without Cody Eakin for half the season and while almost aways facing the other team’s best players.
I’ve heard some people say Dowling is a one-dimensional player. I don’t buy that for a second. He was on the top unit of Swift Current’s strong penalty kill. He played in every key defensive situations. Dowling wins draws and anticipates the play in his own zone as well as any other top pivots in the league. Is he going to drop guys with crushing hits? Probably not. Instead he is going to anticipate their mistakes and have the puck in transition before the opposing team even realizes they lost it.
There is more to being a strong defensive player than playing a constant physical game. Dowling uses his hockey IQ and battle level to make a difference in his own end.
I also think he may have had the best hands in the league. Some of the moves he could pull in tight spots blew me away. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll be able to undress some AHL defenders like he can at this level. The transition will likely take some time. Especially after he sustained an injury in the second last game of the year. However, I think Dowling’s hockey IQ and skating ability make him a prime candidate for picking up the pro game quickly.
I hope he is able to build a long career in the Flames organization. Lord knows they could use some good young players. The opportunity is there and now it’s up to Justin to make the most of it. I’m sure he will.
#10 for the Broncos turns into #39 for the Heat as another young man has grown up before the eyes of Swift Current fans. That’s what the WHL is all about.