Anderson, Bowers together for draft ride

Jake VanBesien2017 Draft Center, Features, USHL

It’s no secret that the Waterloo Black Hawks are off to a great start to the 20016-17 season.

The early surge is, in large part, due to the play of a pair of 2017 NHL Draft eligibles. Black Hawks defenseman Mikey Anderson and forward Shane Bowers have combined for nine goals and 23 points.

“The season is going smoothly, and the team is getting better each weekend,” said Bowers, 28th in Future Considerations’ Fall ranking for the 2017 NHL Draft. “Individually, it’s been good. I’m getting pretty good minutes and have been able to score a few times with the help of my linemates and the team. I think the team’s only going to get better and things are looking up for us right now.”

Bowers is off to a strong start with eight goals and 15 points in 15 games.

“He’s trying to keep the game simple and consistent,” said Anderson, ranked 87th.

Anderson has been no slouch either.

The 17-year-old is known for solid play on the blue line, but has chipped in one goal and seven assists so far. Being responsible for starting the play from the back end, breaking the puck out, and jumping into the rush occasionally has been the strong suit of the season for the Waterloo blueliner.

He credits his offensive production by taking pride in starting the breakout from the back end in a similar fashion to that of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonaugh, whom Anderson likens his game to.

“Some (of my) strengths are my ability to defend against other teams’ top lines, and I think I create good offense from my ability to defend,” Anderson said.

The pair is thriving in the most important season of their young careers.

Most stressful, too.

Naturally, the draft is going to be in the back of each of their minds.

But it’s not their primary focus.

“You’re going to think about it a little bit but you try hard not to,” Bowers said. “I think the pressure is only as much as you put on yourself. Obviously everyone wants to get as drafted as high as you can but at the end of the day you have to be in the moment with your team and play every game to win and help your team win.”

Still, the thought of getting the June nod can creep in.

And when it does, Anderson has an example in particular to follow.

Joey Anderson, his brother, was selected in the third round (No. 73) of the 2016 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils.

His advice?

“He’s talked about just going out there and playing,” Anderson started, “because every game there is someone there watching, whether, you see them or talk to them, probably not, but there is someone there.”

That competitiveness is what Anderson hopes will define him as a player in his draft year.

He knows the expectation, after all after watching big brother go through it last year.

“I thought it was awesome, pretty cool coming down the stairs,” Anderson said. “And seeing all of the teams on the floor, its pretty cool and just gives you the chills right away, when you walk down.”

Bowers didn’t get that experience.

But he’s hoping to take a similar approach.

“Trying not to think about it is the biggest thing,” he said. “I got to talk to Joey, and he was able to say it was a good experience and enjoy it, and throughout the year you have got to worry about hockey… and just got to be in the moment.”

So far so good.

The draft hasn’t served as a distraction.

Even as Anderson and Bowers face multiple meetings with NHL teams early in the young season.

“A couple of teams have reached out early on, and a few emails, trying to ignore it, but its part of it,” Bowers said. “You just try to put it in the back of your mind and not think about it when the puck drops.”

It’s not a secret that the draft brings attention, but the clear focus of the two is to develop as hockey players, prioritize the now.

And what happens in June, time will tell.