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Hockey: Irish snag top defenseman for Class of 2013

Kyle Cassily | Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Notre Dame received a verbal commitment Sept. 19 from Cam Fowler – the first commit for the Class of 2013 – just five weeks after the team secured highly regarded Class of 2012 forward Patrick Gaul from the U.S. National Team.

Fowler, a defenseman from Farmington Hills, Mich., chose Notre Dame over Michigan and Ohio State in the beginning of his sophomore year of high school. He currently plays for the Honeybaked AAA Hockey Club’s midget minor team in the Midwest Elite Hockey League, an organization he has played with for the past seven years.

Honeybaked general manager Larry Knapp described Fowler as a big and tall blue-liner with a smooth stride and great hands. Knapp praised Fowler’s vision and said he is adept at making breakout passes out of the defensive zone.

“[Fowler is] just, in my opinion, the best defenseman in the league,” Knapp said. “And watching some of the other teams play in nationals, it looks like Cam is arguably one of the best players in his age group, period.”

The 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound 14-year-old led his Honeybaked Bantam team last year to the Michigan State Finals, where the team lost to Belle Tire. He then impressed scouts at the USA Hockey Select 15 Festival in St. Cloud, Minn., where he scored one goal and three assists in five games.

“[Notre Dame is] very lucky to get Cam,” Knapp said. “He’s not only one of the best players to come through Honeybaked – he’s a genuinely nice person. [Notre Dame is going to] love the way he plays.”

Honeybaked Hockey had four of its former players in the NHL last season and more than 40 current Division I-hockey players have called the Oak Park, Mich., club home. Irish seniors Jason Paige and Josh Sciba played for Honeybaked, along with sophomore Erik Condra and 2006 graduate Chris Trick.

While his father, Perry Fowler, said he always knew how talented his son was, only recently has Cam blossomed into a defenseman who has been hot on the keyboards of the country’s top college hockey analysts.

“He’s always been a good player, but it’s been in the past year that really he’s started to generate a lot of interest,” Perry Fowler said. “Did I ever have expectations like this for him? Absolutely not. It’s something that’s evolved over time.”

Cam Fowler said he was told by the Irish coaching staff that he would be offered a scholarship, but he had as much time as he wanted to make his decision. He made the choice soon after a visit to campus during the Penn State football weekend.

“I chose Notre Dame because they have a great coaching staff there with [head coach] Jeff Jackson, [associate head coach] Paul Pooley and [assistant coach] Andy Slaggert,” Fowler said. “I’m excited about where their hockey program is going over the next few years.”

Perry Fowler said that Cam’s decision to choose Notre Dame was his own and that both his parents supported him 100 percent. He made sure, however, that his son was aware of all his options.

“Everything else about Notre Dame is the icing on the cake after the world class academics, the campus and the support staff for the student athletes,” Perry Fowler said. “Everything about it is first rate. After our second unofficial visit to Notre Dame, he said, ‘Dad, this is where I want to go.'”

Knapp spoke with Slaggert at the Michigan state playoffs last spring, where Slaggert asked if there were any Honeybaked players he should take a closer look at.

“I told him I have one you should look at – Fowler,” Knapp said.

And Slaggert not only looked, but convinced the elite prospect to join Gaul and a superb six-man recruit class for 2007-08 and an Irish program that is in the early stages of a complete overhaul under second-year coach Jackson.

Fowler will play for the U.S. National Under-17 team next year and for the Under-18’s the year after to prepare for his enrollment in the fall of 2009.

“It’s a great program and it’s a really good place to develop all your skills,” Fowler said of the national program. “And you get the overseas experience, to play internationally in the tournaments and obviously representing the USA and wearing the U.S. jersey.”

But Fowler is only 14 years old and has hundreds of hours of ice time between now and the first time he dons the Irish jersey.

“We see him at Notre Dame being part of a program that’s on the rise – hopefully it will be national championship contender,” Perry Fowler said when asked where he sees his son in five years. “We’re not looking anywhere beyond that.”