When the St. Cloud State Huskies made their first-ever appearance at the NCAA’s Frozen Four in April, they did it with two of Dean Lombardi’s recent draft picks – forward Nic Dowd (2009) and defenseman Kevin Gravel (2010). Little did anybody know at the time though, the Kings would later select Dowd’s linemate, freshman Jonny Brodzinski, at last month’s NHL Draft.
All three players will now join two dozen other prospects in LA this week for the Kings’ summer Development Camp. As such, we’ve been publishing our annual preview series over the past few days.
We’ve already heard from Gravel, so now it’s time to see what Dowd thinks.
He’s a rare member of the ‘five timers club’ – yes, this will be his fifth DevCamp. That may be a record.
The 6-foot-2 center posted 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 42 games for St. Cloud this past season.
Here’s seven questions with Dowd…
Is there anything specific you can attribute to your strong start this year (points in seven straight games, including three game-winning goals)?
“Yeah, I would say there is a direct correlation from the work that I put in during the off-season. It takes guys a couple of years to figure out what they need to do in the weight room to get their bodies where they need to be for the start of the season. I definitely think that the work I put in in my summer training was something that directly lead to my success on the ice when the season started. I bounced around quite a bit before starting college. Then, after my freshman year, my coach kind of referred to me as a speed ball – it’s just my attention span – here, here, here. Three weeks at home and then three weeks up at St. Cloud and two weeks somewhere else. It’s hard to get on a routine schedule like that and obviously to become a pro player you need to develop that kind of mentality and I think I was able to do that the summer before my junior year and I think that was able to lead to my success at the beginning.”
So, is it safe to assume you’re coming into camp this summer with more confidence than years past?
“Yeah, I definitely think so. When you come in as a new guy, I had no clue what was going on. In contrast to a lot of kids that build up to the NHL Draft and know they’re going to get drafted and have had their sights on that goal for a long time… I didn’t even know a draft was going on. I was in Walmart that day and had no clue until I got a text message. So, it was kind of the same way when I showed up to camp, I had no clue really what was going on. I hadn’t even got my information in (to the team) to get picked up at the airport. I just knew that Garrett (Roe, a Kings prospect at the time) was in LA too. Luckily, he happened to get in at the same time I did.
Over time though, you’re not afraid to make mistakes at camp. You start to realize it’s not about doing everything the perfect, pretty way and getting through the drills. It’s about pushing yourself and getting outside your comfort zone. I’m not afraid to lose the puck anymore or possibly lose an edge, and I think that was something that I definitely wouldn’t have done my first year because I didn’t want to look like the guy who couldn’t stick handle and the guy who wouldn’t skate. Whereas, coming in this year, I won’t be afraid to push myself to the limit. Obviously, you’re going to take some chances and try and make some plays and hopefully come out on the positive end, where as when you’re a rookie, a fresh new guy coming in, I probably wouldn’t have dreamed of making those plays or taking those chances.”
Wait, you were at Walmart instead of paying attention to the NHL Draft?
“To be honest, I was working at Culver Summer Camp, which is my prep school that I graduated from in 2008…I think if I had been somewhere else, I probably would have known that the draft was going on. But, during the summer camps at Culver there was no TV. We didn’t even have one and I had terrible phone service up there at the time. We were just working all day, so I really had no clue the draft was on at all. Driving back from Walmart that day, all of a sudden I got a text that said ‘You’ve just been drafted into the NHL’ and I was like ‘What the hell?’ I was in the back seat and all my buddies in the car turned around and looked at me and were like, ‘No way!’ The text didn’t say a team or anything. We had no clue. So, the car got a little faster and we got back to the place and checked the computer and there it was. I had talked to LA a tiny bit before that, but it wasn’t much – obviously not enough in my mind to think that I was going to be drafted there at the time.”
Like many players in the Kings organization, including Matt Greene and Alec Martinez, you spent a year in the USHL before moving on to college. What did you learn while you were a member of the Indiana Ice?
“I was pretty fortunate, I spent one year there and got to move onto college. I think with the USHL, it’s a big development league – that’s what it is, there is no question about it. You’re put in there to get bigger, stronger, faster, so when you make the leap to college you can adjust quicker. Being an 18, 19 year old, you know, my body and my strength and my speed wasn’t something that was at the caliber to play at the collegiate level. Especially mine at that time! So, the USHL was great for me….I was able to become a two-way player, which is really important to make it to the next level. I was able to get stronger and be responsible in the D zone. I picked up a lot from that. I think that was a great learning experience.”
Your roommate, Kevin Gravel, says you’re always on him about cleaning up. True or not true?
“Yeah, I don’t know what it is about him. He sits there and he has a cereal bowl that’s completely empty – he literally could probably wipe it down and put it back in the cupboard. Instead, he’ll just let it sit in the sink for a day. It’s not like a week or something crazy like that, but he’s one of those guys that maybe if you don’t get on him a little bit, he might leave it there for a little too long. I try to keep Kevin in line, he’s a young buck, you know he’s ’92 (birth year), compared to a ’90 like me, so we have to help him out a little bit, kind of bring him along.”
Two of LA’s other top college prospects, Derek Forbort and Nick Shore, turned pro a few months ago. There was some talk about you potentially doing the same thing. What can you share about the conversations you had with the Kings?
“It was obviously pretty serious. I had some decisions to make and I completely stand by my decision that I made to come back to college one more year. I think I have a lot of growing to do not only as a hockey player but as a individual and as a person. I think leadership roles, that hopefully Kevin and I will fulfill in our senior years, will be important in our development. I’m excited about that. I want to give back to St. Cloud what they’ve given to me and I think staying one more year will obviously be great for both me and the University. I hope I can do my part and leave my legacy at St. Cloud and then be a proud member of the LA Kings. But, I’d definitely say that working with them was a pleasure. I’ve never thought about being with any other organization and they definitely reinforced that by letting me make my own decision and work through it, and being there any time I needed an answer to questions or to talk about any positive and negatives in making either decision.”
We’ll ask you the same question we asked Gravel… If he had decided to leave school, how – if at all – would that have affected your decision?
“I don’t know, that’s a tough question. Obviously now that I’ve already made my decision, it’d be easy to go one way or another. I can’t say it would have made my decision, but I could say it would have effected it. Kevin is a great player for our team and you want to be in an organization and on a team that has good players. So, with any team, if you feel that you’ve contributed what you could and you’re not going to take a step in the right direction the following year, then obviously you have to move on. With Kevin by my side, and hopefully me by his side, we can both push each other to move in the right direction and someday help out the LA Kings organization.”
Bonus Question – You came to camp last year with some great flow, and had a lot of the guys talking, but it’s gone now. So, what are you going to do to stand out?
“Nothing out of the ordinary. Hopefully I can do a better job of blending in and not sticking out like a sore thumb this year. I cut my hair off with a good cause, me and six of my teammates and we’re really happy that we did that together, we did it for St. Cloud. Yeah, not bringing the hair back this year, it was a bit of a mess. But, maybe I can stick out a little bit, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just not for my hair.”
Next in the series, we’ll check in with Brodzinski.
In the meantime, here’s a list of the full Development Camp roster and schedule.