'I think Montreal got a great one': Goalie coach raves about Habs prospect Jacob Fowler

“He’s a great kid to teach and he works his butt off,” longtime Boston College coach Mike Ayers says.

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Mike Ayers has worked with some pretty good goalies during his 11 years at Boston College as an associate head coach and goalie coach.

They include Thatcher Demko, now with the Vancouver Canucks; Joseph Woll, now with the Toronto Maple Leafs; and Spencer Knight, a first-round draft pick by the Florida Panthers (13th overall) in 2019.

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Ayers’s latest goalie project is Jacob Fowler, selected by the Canadiens in the third round (69th overall) of last year’s NHL Draft. As a freshman this season at Boston College, Fowler posted a 32-6-1 record, along with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.

Apart from the numbers — which speak for themselves — what impressed Ayers most about Fowler?

“Just a really good demeanour,” Ayers said in a recent phone interview. “I think his self-confidence when he’s in the net really shows through the whole team and I think they feel it and they’re able to just play with him back there. It’s a big help in terms of confidence.”

Boston College won the Hockey East Tournament Championship and advanced to the NCAA championship game at the Frozen Four before losing 2-0 to Denver.

“His natural ability is very strong,” Ayers said about Fowler. “I think for him it’s developing a level of efficiency within his game that allows him to play at a higher level.”

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Fowler is listed at 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds and his weight was a concern heading into the NHL Draft. Ayers said playing at Boston College allowed Fowler to work out at least three times a week in the weight room, while also working closely with the team nutritionist.

“Our nutritionist did a great job with him in terms of understanding when to eat and what to eat on a game day, pregame, that type of thing,” Ayers said “And he raved about the enhanced energy and not feeling almost bloated in a way by eating at the right times. So those were good educational pieces for him and now it’s just fine-tuning it to make sure he’s getting exactly what he needs as he moves forward.”

Ayers worked closely with Fowler during practices to improve his stance and overall presence in the net.

“He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but I felt like by the end of the year he was filling out the net really well,” Ayers said. “The other thing that we worked on a lot was his drift. Just a slight movement back within his stance as shots were coming in. That way any sort of rebounds he was able to get that momentum and move laterally whenever he needed to or if there was a lateral pass on an entry he was able to move over and get squared up and set on that shot accordingly. So those are probably two of the biggest things we worked on.

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“He’s a great kid to teach and he works his butt off,” Ayers added. “I think probably the knock on him in the draft was his body type, to be honest with you. And I probably think that’s why he fell where he did in the draft. I think Montreal got a great one. I certainly think that he fell in a trap because of that.”

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