For Nic Dowd, the Washington Capitals 2020-21 campaign was a significant and meaningful one.
The 31-year-old called the season one of the most fun of his career, due not only to impressive numbers but increased responsibility and trust from the coaching staff.
Under first-year head coach Peter Laviolette, Dowd took a major step forward. In 56 games, he registered a career-best 11 goals (fourth on the Capitals) and was on pace for 23 points in a normal 82-game season. His ice time also saw a major spike as he logged 14:22 minutes per game, the highest of his career.
“To be relied on and to have that responsibility is everything you can ask as a hockey player,” Dowd said of his role.
In turn, Dowd was also vital to the Capitals success last season. He formed tremendous chemistry skating alongside Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin, and the fourth line proved to be among the best in the league thanks to their grit, pressure and aggression on the forecheck.
READ MORE ON WHN: Analyzing the Capitals’ Situation At Center
The Alabama native also grew more confident in his 200-foot game. Dowd took tremendous care of the puck, emphasized the importance of offensive zone entries and even generated more scoring chances. He registered 68 shots on goal last year, the most since his 2016-17 campaign with the Los Angeles Kings. In addition, he boasted a 16.2 shooting percentage, the fourth-best on the team.
Dowd played a big part in the team’s success on the other side of the puck as well. Eighty-six percent of his starts were in the defensive zone, and he led all forwards in blocked shots (40) in the regular season. He also ranked 14th among all centers with at least 200 draws taken with a 56.25 face-off percentage, and dished 109 hits for back-to-back 100-plus hit campaigns.
For the Alabama native, increased trust, transparency with Laviolette and the coaching staff helped him take his game to the next level.
“[This year was] a ton of fun as opposed to some of my last years playing hockey where it’s been challenging to get going in games and when you’re going, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting that reward of continued play and ice time,” Dowd explained. “It’s tough to continue when you have those challenges and you know nothing is going to change, whereas this year, Lavy was very upfront with us from the beginning.”
Entering his fourth season with Washington, Dowd will get the chance to continue growing his game in a full 82-game season under Laviolette. He’s in the final year of his contract and will be looking to earn an extension. Right now, he’s on the right track for that.