October 5, 2010
With a plethora of high draft picks and talented rookies slated for Grand Rapids this season, much of the spotlight prior to the Detroit Red Wings’ training camp was on younger players. One of the names that ended up drawing most of the attention was originally one of the most unfamiliar on the roster.
“First impressions are everything,” said Owens after his first practice back in Grand Rapids on Monday. “My game plan was to come in and work as hard as I can, and hope that everything worked out from there.”
The 24-year-old winger from Toronto was acquired by Detroit at the trade deadline last season from the New York Rangers, in exchange for Kris Newbury. Owens suited up in 17 games for the Griffins down the stretch, notching five points.
“He came in here last year and was a really nice addition, adding his speed and physical play,” said Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser, who assists Detroit’s coaches each year during training camp.
“You’d like to think players can come to the camp and not only blend in with the scenery, but find a way to do something to stand out,” Fraser continued. “That’s exactly what Jordan Owens did.”
Known more for his energy and two-way brand of hockey, Owens brings a skill set that Fraser believes complements the Griffins’ lineup well.
“He really added an element we needed (last season),” said Fraser. “We weren’t very fast, but he was. We weren’t real tough, but he was.”
“I’m an energy guy and a physical player,” said Owens. “That’s what I want to be known for here, my work ethic and physical play.”
Despite the impression that he left in Grand Rapids last season, Owens found the adjustment difficult, learning on the fly how to deal with a trade in the middle of a season.
“I wasn’t ready for it at all,” said Owens. “There’s a lot of added stresses that people don’t realize when a player gets traded. I was living with my girlfriend at the time, and we had to pack up our apartment and move pretty much within a couple of days.”
Fraser also noted the difficulties that traded players face. “When you get changed to a different team late in the season, it’s hard to step in. You’re staying at a hotel, you don’t know anybody, it’s a big change.”
“I think he feels better about himself. I think he’s ready -- he got off to a fast start.”
Owens had a year left on his contract when he was traded from New York. He anticipates his first full season in Grand Rapids will go much more smoothly, having used the summer to prepare for Traverse City in September.
“I worked out almost every day in the summer, five days a week,” he said, adding that he trained on the ice with Griffins goaltender Thomas McCollum. “I knew what I was coming into and that helped me out.”
Owens was no stranger to NHL camps, having attended the Rangers’ training camp the last three years while a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack. However, he faced stiff competition this fall at a Red Wings camp that boasted 37 other forwards. Jobs are limited, and a newcomer like Owens risked being lost in the shuffle.
“The Red Wings’ camp is very, very fast,” said Fraser. “Look at the veterans they have there, they’re all Stanley Cup champions. When you step into that environment, it’s different from a lot of teams.”
Now adjusted to life in Grand Rapids, Owens focused on getting himself noticed by the Red Wings’ brass.
“It was an honor to be there, there’s so much history and tradition in the organization,” he said. “I just wanted them to recognize me as a hard-working guy and a front-line soldier for the team.”
“It was nice to see that he went in there with the idea that he was going to do something to make a difference, and he did,” said Fraser. “The coaches talked about him a lot, and he was rewarded with exhibition games.”
“That’s what you want to see all of these players do -- earn an opportunity to play in these exhibition games to gain experience on what it’s like to play with the best.”
Owens was sent down to Grand Rapids following his third preseason contest. He didn’t record any points in those games, but he did find the scoresheet several times during Detroit’s training camp scrimmages, including a goal during the Red and White game that was the result of hard work and a strong finishing ability.
“I think it adds confidence, and it might set you up to get some extra ice time at the start of the year,” said Owens of his strong preseason performance, “but everything is earned and the season is a grind.”
While Owens is a Griffin for now, Fraser believes that he has landed himself a higher position on the organization’s depth chart.
“He got to camp and was hitting, battling, and skating very well,” Fraser said. “He stood out in all the practices and scrimmages.”
“He’s a great kid, and his on-ice performance at the Wings’ camp has really moved him up in the pecking order of prospects,” he added.
Owens will turn 25 at the end of the season, and with his contract in its final year, he knows that his performance in Grand Rapids could make or break his NHL future.
“My goal this year is to play every game like it’s my last,” said Owens. “It’s such a big year for me. You only have one shot to make it. I’m going to live every day like it’s my last, and scratch and claw and try to be the best player I can every single day.”
“He’s brought a lot of things to the table that really help us,” said Fraser. “We’re looking for some real big things out of him this year.”
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