The Chilliwack Bruins top scorer is perhaps the most interesting prospect in the Flames organization. Mostly because he represents a marked departure from the franchises drafting habits under the Sutter regime. Not only is he probably the smallest forward the team has drafted at 5’11" 190 pounds, but he was also classiffied a one-dimensional "offense only" player by many scouts during his draft year. You can count on one finger the amount of players the Sutter-led Flames have drafted since 2003 with that description.
A 30+ goal scorer in the WHL at 17 years of age is notable. However, Howse fell to the Flames in the third round not only due to his less than ideal size, but because he was rumored to be lacking in all areas of his game aside from putting the puck in the net. described Howse as a guy who lacked imagination, vision and work ethic last summer. As such, Howse strikes me as the anithesis of the typical Flames draft pick since Sutter took the reins. If anything, the team would often err on the side of "character and work ethic" to the exclusion of offense. That said, as I’ve mentioned previously, the team seemingly experienced a shift of scouting and draft philosophy starting around 2007/2008 and the Howse choice may be a prime example of the org’s exceptance that, yes, scoring matters.
It’s starting to look like a worthwhile gamble. This year, Howse scored a team high 47 goals for a very mediocre Chilliwack Bruins club. What’s more, reports out of the observers and coaches say that Howse greatly improved his overall game this season.
He’s in better shape than he’s ever been. He’s become ornery on the forecheck. He’s dependable enough in his own zone now that the Bruins are using him on the 5-on-3 penalty kill, which was unthinkable not that long ago.
“I want to become a complete player. It’s not all about scoring goals and doing all the fancy work. It’s about dedication. I want to have a good work ethic, I want to be hard to play against in the defensive zone as well as being hard to play against in the offensive zone.”
Besides his goal scoring, which jumped from 31 to 47, Howse also improved his plus/minus rating a full 33 points: from -24 last year to +9 this season. Only four players finished in the black by that metric on the Bruins.
As with Nemisz and Wahl, I went through Howse’s game-by-game results to give his results a bit more context.
Chilliwack Total Offense = 215 GF
Howse Total Points = 72
ES Points = 36
PP Points = 29
SH Points = 7
% of Total Offense = 33.4%
% at ES = 50%
PPG = 1
NHLE = 25
Keep in mind that Howse is 19 years old in July and has at least one more year of junior hockey ahead of him. As such, his development naturally lags behind Wahl and Nemisz, who both 20 and will be playing professional hockey next season.
The numbers suggest that Howse is still a relatively flawed player. He was far more reliant on special teams for his scoring compared to Nemisz and Wahl, for instance, and his PPG pace lagged due to his relatively lackluster assist total (25). That said, he was still more central to the Bruins scoring than Nemisz was in Windsor and his PPG pace was by far the best on a bad club. He also managed an impressive 7 SH points, a notable achievement for a guy who wasn’t on the penalty kill just one short season ago. His goal total, one of the best in the WHL, is also hard to ignore given his lackluster teammates and his age.