With the Checkers being one of several teams to opt out of the 2020-21 pandemic-shortened season, Florida prospects ended up on the Tampa Bay-affiliated Syracuse Crunch squad.
For a young player like Henry Bowlby, making the move from Syracuse to the Florida-run Checkers for this past season made a world of difference.
“That was a crazy year,” said Bowlby of his time in Syracuse. “It wasn’t a full season and we were dealing with the Tampa guys for the most part. So it was really good to be here with the Florida guys working with us, [Head Coach] Geordie [Kinnear] going over film. It was much better and much easier to try and develop and know what you want to work on.”
The 25-year-old Harvard product logged 23 games for the Crunch in 2020-21, but this past season in Charlotte was his first true taste of the beast that is a full pro season.
“Being a college guy is a little different from the junior players,” said Bowlby. “We play maybe 30 games or so a year. This was my first full year, 70 games. It’s tough as you get going towards the end of the season.”
Bowlby came into his own as a member of Charlotte’s forward group, finishing the year with 28 points (12g, 16a) in 64 games. Bowlby also showed glimpses of where his game can progress working his way into more than a few Grade-A chances throughout the year by simply leaning on his personal skill set.
“I think it’s my skating and my speed,” said Bowlby of his biggest assets. “I think that creates a lot of chances for me, it’s just a matter of improving on my finishing abilities and holding onto pucks more and being more physical - using my body better.”
As the coaching staff called on him to utilize his 6-foot-1, 195 pound frame, Bowlby found another layer to his game.
“The speed is the big part of him,” said Kinnear. “But what Bowlbs did really well is near the end he started to add some physicality to it.”
Putting everything together in their game is a big step for any young player. For Bowlby, seeing flashes of that progression throughout the season goes a long way toward reaching that point.
“It’s knowing deep down that I have the confidence and the speed to do it,” said Bowlby. “Then from there just seeing the puck go in the back of the net a little more and building on that.”
Continuing to build those flashes of skill into production is a top priority for Bowlby, who heads into this offseason as a restricted free agent.
“Finishing on more of my chances, being a little more physical,” said Bowlby of his main focus. “I have a pretty big frame and I think I can move pretty well so being a little more physical. Holding onto pucks more and just building on what I already have.”
“He’s a free agent kid who has continued to get better throughout his whole career,” said Kinnear. “He knows he has to take another step. We’re excited that he was a part of our program, and we’re excited for him moving forward.”