Sam Dow has something to prove. For the last two seasons Dow has been on the outside looking in, not because of his skill or ability, but due in large part to the Moncton Wildcats philosophy and direction.
The Cats entered the 2018-2019 season in a brand new building and wanted to go as far as possible in the playoffs to gain invaluable experience heading into their “all in” season this year.
Cracking a roster as a 15 year old defenceman is a daunting task for anyone especially on teams that have championship aspirations.
Nevertheless, every time Dow receives the call from the Moncton Wildcats the steady two-way defender has excelled.
Dow might been caught up in a numbers game, but the old cliche definitely applies to the 17 year old defenceman.
“Control what you can control and be ready to take full advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.”
The Fredericton, New Brunswick product has handled the last two seasons with a tremendous amount of professionalism and optimism.
One can only imagine what Dow has been through being so close to his dream of playing in the QMJHL.
The Wildcats sent Dow to the Campbellton Tigers last season after it was clear that he would only play in a very limited role with the Cats.
Organizations talk about player development, but when it comes to the Moncton Wildcats and the Campbellton Tigers they are a cut above.
The opportunity to play and get more touches and experience playing against bigger faster and stronger players was critical for Dow’s progression and development.
“I played a pretty big role last year under the wing of a lot of twenty year olds and when I came back down at Christmas this season, Greg and the coaching staff wanted me to be the same way,” Dow said.
“Greg and Sandy want me to play simple solid defensively and help out the backend as much as I can.”
The entire Maritime Hockey League and especially the Campbellton Tigers organization have a reputation for not only providing young players with an opportunity to play, but developing them for the QMJHL and beyond. That clearly starts behind the bench.
“Sandy on the backend has been through it all and Greg as well coaching up in the QMJHL, they just know the game and they are going to treat you like you’re twenty,” explained Dow.
“Greg treats everyone the same, just because you’re sixteen and he will take it easy on you.”
“That really helps developing players,” confessed the well spoken defender.
“Going down was tough,” admitted Dow.
“Going down there playing tons of minutes and gaining confidence and coming back up you feel more confident and have more patience with the puck and make better plays and hopefully more minutes.”
Dow was excellent in the Wildcats back to back home-stand last weekend.
It’s all about confidence when it comes to young players and their ability to step into the line up and contribute.
“You have confidence because you play at this level, but you gain confidence playing Junior A.”
“I try to keep my confidence when I come up to the Wildcats. It worked out well the last two games and I’m happy the way I played.”
Dow credits Wildcats D Coach Darryl Boyce for helping with his transition back to the QMJHL.
“He sees the game very well, every time you come back to the bench he has a point and he knows what play you are taking about. Darryl just knows the game very well,” explained Dow.
Greg Leland and the Tigers organization deserve a lot of credit as well for Dow’s progression.
“Sam arrived as a 15 year old because his birthday is in November,” Leland said.
“He quickly adapted to JrA as he was able to compete in exhibition games with the Wildcats.”
“Sam’s physical stature allowed him to withstand playing against twenty year olds and we were able to surround him with our own high end D’s in Francis Thibeault and Pierre-Luc Lurette. This insulated him from losing confidence and allowed him to play while not worrying about making mistakes,” admitted Leland.
Leland witnessed amazing growth and progress in the young blue liners game.
“As a result of playing and not worrying about making mistakes he played his best hockey during our playoff run and it transferred over in terms of him making the jump back into the Q to start this season.”
Leland and the Tigers formula of success is quite clear.
“As for playing younger players, when we finalize our roster and recognize that we have young, capable players we are fully ready to allow them to the opportunity to succeed.”
“We encourage them to play while knowing they will make mistakes. We don’t hide them on the 4th line and give them limited minutes.”
“Same as a D man they need to be allowed to play, make mistakes and learn from them. As long as they commit to working hard, being invested at school, conduct themselves appropriately and treat everyone with respect, then we are all for letting them grow,” stressed Leland.
The former Asst Coach with the Memorial Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs understands the importance of instilling confidence in young players.
“They will on occasion lose confidence or have limited ice time for certain particular games, but it’s not something that is long term for if we felt that would be the case then we would suggest they stay in Midget AAA.”
“So far we are very happy with younger players like Sam Dow last year, as well as Dawson Stairs, and Kyle Petten and Alexandre David this year who made the jump,” explained Leland.
“With seven 17 year olds this year all being significant contributors to our line up, we feel good about providing them the chance to develop.”
There’s still tons of hockey to played this season when both leagues restart after COVID-19 scare.
What does the future hold for Sam Dow?
“I see myself here in Moncton, I don’t see myself any where else.”
“This is where I want to be.”
“I just love it here they have everything.”
“The Wildcats are a great organization with great guys, it’s a lot of fun and I just don’t see myself any where else.”
“Being a go to guy down there and coming back up to the Cats I really want to prove myself and show them that I can play here and that I belong.”
“The past few games I’ve felt really good and I’m looking forward to coming back up after our playoffs.”
“Next year I just want to have a role and keep playing earn my minutes and work hard.”