What's the saying? You don't know what you have until it's gone?
That may best describe the playing career of Tysen Dowzak in a Kelowna Rockets uniform. When the Rockets drafted Dowzak with the 6th pick in the 2003 WHL bantam draft, the big concern was if the Fergus Falls Minnesota resident would play U.S college hockey or jump to major junior. After playing high school hockey at Shattuck St. Mary's, Dowzak surprised many by playing hockey North of the border. For an America born player to chose the WHL over college was unheard of back then.
When he first skated for the Rockets as a 17 year-old in 2005, media hockey types had him pegged as a potential 1st rounder in the 2006 NHL draft. Instead the 6'5 220 pound defenseman was hampered by injury in his rookie season playing in just 43 games. The end result was scouts overlooked him and his name was never called. Fortunately he attended the Minnesota Wild training camp, but was quickly returned to the Rockets as an 18 year-old. A season later was much like his rookie year. Again he was hampered by injury, playing in just 55 games. His offensive totals were modest at best (3+4=7) and his unwillingness to get engaged physically (68 penalty minutes that year) had NHL scouts scratching him off their list as a late bloomer. But in his 19 year-old season Dowzak was arguable the teams best defenseman until Christmas. After the Christmas break he flat lined and returned to the form that had fans and scouts scratching their heads about a big bodied defenseman who failed to play physical.
But thanks to a free-agent tryout with the New York Rangers this fall, Dowzak did something to impress. I wasn't there to see it, but he likely went out of his comfort zone to play physical - not once in a while - but consistently. He even fought former Rockets teammate Brady Leavold in a exhibition game in Traverse City. Whatever Tysen Dowzak did, the New York Rangers liked what they saw, offering him a contract.
But let's be honest here.
Did you anticipate Tysen Dowzak spending his entire 20 year-old season in Kelowna? Prior to the start of this season you would have said no, but after seeing the first 8 games your tune likely changed. Dowzak would have been a valuable - yes I said a valuable - addition to the Rockets young defensive core. He was anything but flashy, but his 'off the glass and out' mentality kept his team out of trouble and he would have clearly been one of the Rockets top four defenseman along with Tyson Barrie, Tyler Myers and Collin Bowman.
Tysen Dowzak may have never 'wowed' you with his play in his 166 games in a Rockets uniform, but it's only now that he's gone on to play pro hockey that you realize how valuable the overage defenseman really was to this team.