ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling some of the draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia on June 27-28. Next up is Roland McKeown, the No. 27-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.
Kingston Frontenacs defenseman Roland McKeown is used to being around top-end talent on and off the ice.
The Frontenacs, run by general manager and former NHL player Doug Gilmour, are looking to become the first junior team to have three players selected in the first round of the NHL Draft since the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011. Center Sam Bennett is likely a lock to go in the first five picks, and fellow Kingston teammates McKeown and Spencer Watson are both considered top 60 prospects by NHL Central Scouting and could go early in this year's draft as well.
McKeown said his 27th overall ranking among North American skaters is gratifying, but it is also an incentive to get better.
“It’s an honor to be on the list, but it is motivation to move up,” he said to NHL.com about Central Scouting’s final rankings.
An honor? Yes, but the 6-foot-1, 195-pound, right-shot defenseman is not satisfied with his place among the other draft prospects.
“You see who’s in front of you, and you want to be the best you can be,” McKeown said. “So I think moving up is definitely a goal.”
McKeown is no stranger to having big names in front of him. He was the second-overall pick in the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Draft, selected after Connor McDavid went to the Erie Otters. McDavid is considered one of the top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft.
In his first year with Kingston in 2012-13, McKeown was named to the OHL’s All-Rookie First Team and contributed 29 points (seven goals and 22 assists) in 61 games. He would also earn gold medals with Canada at the Under-18 World Championship in Sochi and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
During his second season with Kingston, the D-man set career highs across the board. His 43 points (11 goals and 32 assists) were good enough for top 15 among OHL defensemen.
McKeown attributes his improvements this past season to added strength.
“I did feel stronger this year,” McKeown said. “You could say I’m better defensively, but I think that comes back to the strength part of it. I’m able to get on forwards a lot more and break up the ice quicker because I’m stronger.”
His coach, former NHL defenseman Todd Gill, said he believes the young defenseman is discovering when to pick and choose his spots, and that has led to more offensive output from him.
“Roland is a guy who logs a lot of minutes for us every game and plays in every situation,” said Gill to the Kingston Region. “When you are logging those minutes, you can’t just use your legs to create chances. You need to use your mind, too, and he is doing that.”
Central Scouting’s David Gregory agrees with Gill on his assessment of McKeown’s all-around game.
“I love this kid… he can play offensively and move the puck and has a bomb of a shot,” Gregory said. “When defending you, he presents himself as a big, strong and mobile guy. He’ll push guys to the side; he’s a legitimate top prospect.”
In a draft that features a plethora of talented players, McKeown’s growth and defensive abilities have put him in position to be one of the first defensemen selected on June 27.
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