EL SEGUNDO, CA — After starting the season 0-3, the Los Angeles Kings have won four straight—three in overtime and one in a shootout. Rookie center Nic Dowd has had a lot to do with his team’s resurgence.
The 26-year-old, 6-foot-2, 196-pound native of Huntsville, Alabama, was a healthy scratch in the Kings’ first two games of the season, but has made a definite impact, especially in the four wins, during which he earned a goal and three assists. Included in those numbers are a goal and an assist on the power play.
“Each game, you feel a little bit more comfortable,” said Dowd, who was selected by the Kings in the seventh round, 198th overall, of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “There’s definitely situations that push the boundaries a little bit, because I’ve never been in situations like that in this league. The better I play, the more ice time I’m being rewarded with. Hopefully, I can continue to get more comfortable.”
Indeed, Dowd played just 9:03 in his first game. Since then, his ice time has increased rapidly: He was on the ice for 16:08 in a 3-2 overtime win over Nashville on Oct. 27.
Dowd also elaborated on those situations he’s never been in at the National Hockey League level.
“Late in games — you’re taking face-offs,” he said. “I did that a lot in the American league — power play, stuff like that. I was fortunate enough that [Ontario Reign head coach Mike Stothers] gave me a lot of responsibility down there. But it’s different against guys up here. You’re playing against the elite players of the world. They’re definitely a lot more challenging.”
Despite the added challenge so far, and even though five games is a very small sample size, Dowd is doing more than keep his head above water.
“We played a little bit [together] last year when he was up,” right wing Tyler Toffoli said about his center on the Kings’ second power play unit. “He makes those little plays. He’s doing a really good job and he’s just got to keep going.”
As he alluded to earlier, Dowd creditsStothers for giving him the tools to be able to jump in and contribute right away, especially given the fact that he was not only a seventh-round draft pick, but also noting the time he spent coming up through the ranks.
“I was [slower to develop], so to be able to play another year of junior and four years of college [at St. Cloud State] definitely allowed me to get to where I needed to be to play pro hockey,” he said. “I started playing pro hockey pretty late, when I was 23 or 24 years old…But it gave me the benefit of being a better player coming in and with more of a head on my shoulders than a younger player right out of junior.
“What also helped me jumping into pro hockey was playing under Stothers, [who also served as head coach at Manchester during the 2014-15 championship season]. He gave me a lot of responsibility in both my first and second years. That really allowed me to flourish as a hockey player in the last couple of years.”
The Kings development staff also played a major role in Dowd’s readiness for the NHL.
“L.A. has done a great job with me,” he stressed. “It’s no secret how great their development team is, and how good their process is to get you to the next level. I would definitely say that I’ve been surrounded by good coaches and people who wanted me to be successful. I can’t say enough that the people who surrounded me were the main reason I’ve gotten to where I am.
“I had long enough to do it. I had four years in college and two years in pro. But I think there’s a lot of resources there. I forget how many NHL games our development staff have played between them, but the number is huge. Those guys have a lot of history between them and they know the game — the small parts of the game, that only pro hockey players know. They know what it takes to get to the next level. There’s no secret that the coaches are telling them what players need to do to get to the next level, so it makes it easy to learn and get better.”
Fast-forwarding back to the present, Dowd said that he still has a lot of work to do to improve.
“I just have to get more pucks to the net, take more shots and create second opportunities,” he said. “I have to continue to stay on my face-offs, continue to get my shots on net and continue to be responsible in my own end and in the neutral zone. That allows to me try to be creative in the offensive zone.”
Dowd also gave a lot of credit to his teammates.
“I just think that everyone’s playing well right now,” he said. “I think our goalie is playing really well, I think our defensemen are playing well. That helps young guys like me. It helps guys get up the ice and play in the offensive zone, where you want to play.”