2014 Draft Eligibles: Kingston’s Roland McKeown will be highly sought after come June

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ISS Hockey released its top 30 draft prospect rankings for the month of December earlier this week and to no surprise Kootenay Ice forward Sam Reinhart remains the No.1 prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft. However, there is a player sitting at the No.11 position who I’ve had my eye on for quite some time now. His name is Roland McKeown and he plays defense for the Kingston Frontenacs.

McKeown should be on every NHL team’s must-get list come June. The 6’1, 195 pound defender is blessed with exceptional skating skills that includes top end acceleration and speed.

I would classify the Listowel, Ontario native as a true puck rushing defenseman. He can make crisp on the tape outlet passes, but from what I’ve see he prefers to lead the rush himself. Defensively, McKeown is a smart defender who is rarely seen out of place and has good instincts. I wouldn’t say it’s his strongest asset, but he’s reliable in his own end.

McKeown was the number two overall pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Draft by the Frontenacs. After going through an adjustment period with a young and inexperienced Kingston squad last season, McKeown began to flourish and showed why he’ll be considered for a top 10 selection come June. He became the Fronts most trusted defender and logged heavy minutes as an OHL rookie. He finished 2012-13 with seven goals and 29 points in 61 games played. It’s worth noting he did finish 2012-13 minus-24.

McKeown this season has spearheaded the rejuvenation of the Frontenacs franchise and  is on pace to eclipse his scoring output from last year. In 32 games played, he has four goals and 20 assists for 24 points. The biggest turnaround from last season is his plus/minus. McKeown is currently plus-21 on the year. That’s not really of a shock given the Fronts are one of the  top scoring teams and better overall clubs in the OHL.

The only downside I see to McKeown’s game is he’ll need to bulk up a bit more so he can win battles in front of the crease. If he could play around 210-215 pounds then he has potential to be a force.

Overall, I think his offensive upside right now is greater than Barrie Colts defender Aaron Ekblad, who along with Reinhart, are the consensus top two overall prospects. Defensively, Ekblad is the best defender is draft and it’s not even close.

At the NHL level, McKeown projects as a puck rushing defenseman who has top pairing potential. He can contribute offensively while providing some shutdown value as well. I also think he has some captain material. I see a lot of Drew Doughty/Jacob Trouba in his game.

Right now, I think McKeown is a top 10 pick and will be the third defenseman off the board behind the aforementioned Ekblad and Red Deer Rebels rearguard Haydn Fleury. I think McKeown’s average size could hurt his stock just a bit, coupled with Sarnia’s Tony DeAngelo’s rise out of nowhere, but he’s still a player clubs should have their eyes on.

The Flyers could be hovering around that 8-15 range for the draft and McKeown would be a perfect fit. When have the Flyers had an elite puck rushing defenseman in their system? Please don’t give me Mark Streit or Braydon Coburn.  McKeown could be that guy.

There is less overall depth in the 2014 draft class compared to last season, but the top 10 this year is shaping up to be solid. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the 2015 draft class is the one to watch.  With Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mathew Barzal and Travis Konecny all eligible, certain NHL clubs could turn around their misfortunes if they select one of these players. Only time will tell, but if I’m Buffalo, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton and the Islanders you have to start thinking about gearing up for 2015.

Check back next week for another prospect installment.