Fresh on the heels of college sniper Jonny Brodzinski opting to forgo his senior season at St. Cloud State to sign with Los Angeles, comes more contract news out of the Kings front office.
Joel Lowry, who missed much of his senior season at Cornell University following back surgery, is on the verge of inking his own entry level deal with the NHL club. A source close to the situation has also confirmed that finalizing these contracts has temporarily put talks with goaltender Martin Jones and forward Tanner Pearson on the backburner. Both players are expected to have new deals in place soon, with Pearson’s contract said to be further along (although anything can change in an instant, as we saw during the recent Kyle Clifford extension). However, the team has a shorter deadline to work with for their college prospects and, thus, has prioritized those situations.
Originally selected in the fifth round (#140 overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Lowry is listed at 6-foot-2, 193-pounds. Rather than sign a pro contract last summer, he opted to return to school for his senior year. However, the 23 year old forward has been out of action since December, following back surgery.
“I’m doing a lot better now,” he told MayorsManor by phone. “It was definitely a struggle leading up to the surgery. I tried to play through it and it didn’t really work out as planned. When I was first injured, there was some speculation that I had a disc herniation, but I didn’t get an MRI right away. I kind of kept playing, kept practicing, lifting, and everything. It just got progressively worse. Then, I had an MRI and several doctors looked at it. A lot of them recommended surgery, but they also recommended first trying – it’s like an epidural, it’s like a steroid injection, to reduce the inflammation on the nerve root. So, I had two of those injections right before Christmas. They were hoping that might be enough to make the symptoms subside with some rest over the break. However, I continued to have the same pain; those injections didn’t really do too much. That’s kind of when I knew I was going to have to get surgery. The surgeon told me people react differently and [I remained hopeful of] coming back to play before our season ended.”
After just a few weeks, he was allowed to put his skates on again, but that only led to another setback.
“When they let me back on the ice, I kind of got excited, but I overdid it a little bit when I tried to get out there,” he explained. “I’ve been shut down for a little bit since then. [Recently], I’ve been able to start doing some stuff. I just got back on the ice again last week, just to skate around and kind of sweat. It felt pretty good. It’s come a long way and I feel pretty good right now.”
Similar to the emotions a college player goes through when deciding to leave school early, Lowry had to wrestle with the fact that surgery most likely meant his college career was over since he knew he wouldn’t be back at Cornell in the fall.
“I think when I spoke with our team doctor at school, [that was when] I started realizing it’s probably going to be the surgery route. He told me that if I was an underclassman, I would be getting it done. That was kind of when I knew, ‘Darn, I probably should get it done.’ Still, it’s pretty disappointing, obviously. I was really excited I came back to school for my senior year because we wanted to win a championship and I wanted to be a part of that. Being a big part of the team, it’s hard to stand on the sidelines and watch every game and not be able to do anything at all – especially once I figured out I wasn’t going to be able to make it back. That was pretty difficult, just to watch the team struggle and knowing there was nothing I could do about it. It was pretty tough.”
Lowry’s father Dave played 19 years in the NHL, suiting up for Vancouver, St. Louis, Florida, San Jose and Calgary – and he has a younger brother, Adam, who was drafted by Winnipeg and currently plays for the Jets. Still, Joel will always look back at this season, wondering what might have been – and that’s never a good feeling.
“I struggled at the start of the season, maybe the first four games or so,” he admitted. “Then, my linemates and I kind of figured it out a little bit. I had eight points in the final seven games I played. We were starting to get rolling a little bit… Before Christmas, I think we had a four game winning streak, and then we beat Denver – who ended up winning a game in the tournament and being a two-seed. We lost the next night, but we were pretty excited for the second half. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to be a part of it.”
As a freshman, Lowry was a key contributor to Cornell’s offense, with his 17 points in league play tying him for the team lead. He also tied for second among all rookies in his conference. The following season, Lowry ranked second on the team with 12 goals, and his 19 blocked shots were second among forwards. In his junior campaign, he tied for the team lead with 17 assists in 99 games. That same year, he was the team’s nominee for the ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Forward Award and his 34 blocked shots led all of the team’s forwards. Per the team’s PR Department, he went on to win the Iron Man Award, having already played 100 games for Cornell and never missing a contest due to injury. And he claimed the Crimson Cup, given to the player who was the standout performer in the season series against Harvard.
Recently, his advisors have been talking over a contract with the Kings and an agreement is expected to be announced sooner, not later. In the meantime, Lowry is focusing on his graduation, coming up in May, and then he’ll turn his attention to getting back on the ice. Eventually, he’ll arrive in Los Angeles for Development Camp in July.
“I haven’t actually put the full gear on yet,” he said with a tinge of laughter and frustration. “Unfortunately, they took the ice out at school now, so I won’t have a chance really to skate until the summer. From talking to the surgeon, though, I should be able to skate by [July and participate] with contact and stuff like that. I’ll just be excited to get back on the ice. I haven’t played in a game since December 7th. Being a hockey player, that’s not the easiest thing to do, especially when I’ve watched so many. I’m just really excited to hopefully get a chance to get back on the ice and do what I love. As soon as I get back on the ice, I’m just going to try and put the injury behind me and forget about it, because it’s definitely not a very good memory for me. It’s been a long road back and hopefully [I am] getting towards the end, as far as the injury goes.”
Perhaps his new contract will serve as not only an early graduation present, but some extra motivation heading into the summer.
LA Kings Sign College Sniper Jonny Brodzinski – full interview and details
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