Prospect Profile: Evan Cowley

I won’t be surprised if Wichita Falls goaltender Evan Cowley is selected in a later round of the 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey.

During the 10th-annual NAHL Showcase, the native of Cranbrook, BC (but was most recently living in Evergreen, CO) generated more buzz than any other goalie. At least four different scouts from various colleges and independent programs mentioned he was already being considered as this season’s equivalent to Philadelphia Flyers prospect Anthony Stolarz.

After seeing him perform in his first two NAHL games, I wholeheartedly agree.

Cowley is obviously still a very raw-skilled 17-year-old athlete, but with plenty of size and decent athleticism, the potential for him to develop into a pro goalie is clearly there.

Not only does Cowley have the “optimal” frame at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, but he’s just a rookie in the NAHL with a birth date of July 31, 1995. And despite going 0-1-1 with seven goals allowed on 63 shots (a .889 save percentage) during the showcase, Cowley displayed a lot of tasty traits for scouts to devour.

You will likely notice the same mannerisms in Cowley’s self-published video above, but when evaluating him, I was quickly reminded of Carey Price. Comparables were popping up all over the place; hand placement, that cool, calm and quiet demeanor, the positionally-based foundation, the way they wear Reebok pads…it’s all there, and all in a raw fashion.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean Cowley has the same skill upside as Price. It simply means he exhibits a style that tries to emulate Price, with similar movement mannerisms.

Furthermore, Cowley displays a decent level of raw athleticism and reflexes to excel in the NAHL and eventually thrive at the higher levels.

Most of my notes on Cowley came in his first game on Wednesday against the Aberdeen Wings. Despite suffering the 3-2 loss in the shootout, he stopped 28 of 30 shots and alongside Wings goalie Marcus Zelzer, was the star of the game.

In his first-ever NAHL game, with over 200 scouts in the building, Cowley displayed a calm, poised, and confident demeanor. He swallowed a lot of pucks, he smoothed out his movements as the game progressed, and he never once appeared to be out of place.

When watching a big goaltender play against the best talent he has ever seen, I always focus on movements more than technique. I want to see if the goalie can control his slides, recoveries,  scrambles, and of course his rebounds, as the game goes along.

Cowley passed all of those areas with high marks. There were a few instances (especially in the shootout) where he over-challenged shooters, but for the most part, he utilized his size effectively. He didn’t challenge too far outside the blue paint, and he did a good job of letting pucks hit him. There was not a lot of excessive reaching or lunging, either.

Like most of today’s young goalies, Evan had the “fingers up, elbows tight” arm and hand positioning. The glove is very upright, but it was still active and highly mobile. He made a few nice glove saves in the game against Aberdeen, and he tracked the puck well.

It certainly pays to be big, and Cowley entered the NAHL at the right time. With Stolarz being drafted so soon (45th overall by the Flyers), it bodes well for Evan’s future. His performance against Aberdeen was a tremendous start; it got the scouts talking.

For those scouts that asked me about Cowley’s game, I really had nothing bad to say. The potential is there, he has all of the assets NHL teams are seeking, and he still has a lot of elements to add to his game as time goes on. He can really improve the way he uses his size, making himself even more economical and durable.

He can also get stronger, as he’ll look to gain anywhere from five to 15 pounds of muscle over the next year. Eating properly will be important, as weighing closer to 200 pound will really help his draft value next summer.

But because he reflects a lot of traits we see in an elite goalie like Price, and because he uses his size relatively well for his age and experience, Cowley is going to get a lot of looks.

Oh, and if everything I’ve said doesn’t prove that Cowley will be sought after by NCAA and NHL scouts throughout the season, he was also one of only seven goalies listed on NHL Central Scouting’s guide for the NAHL Showcase.

Of those seven goalies, Cowley was clearly the most promising in terms of long-term upside, and that will further boost his value as the junior hockey season continues.