LA KINGS PROSPECT WATCH: Throughout the summer, Frozen Royalty will be taking a look at several of the Los Angeles Kings’ young prospects. In this installment, the focus is on 2014 second round selection Roland McKeown. An audio interview with McKeown is also included.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — The first thing that strikes you about defenseman Roland McKeown, who was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round (50th overall) of the 2014 National Hockey League Draft, is that with his dashing good looks and his articulate, polished way of handling media interviews, he should be able to land a television broadcasting job without much effort after his playing days are over.
But his more immediate concern is making it to NHL ice as soon as possible and one step towards that end was participating in the Kings’ 2014 Development Camp, July 7-11.
“It’s awesome,” McKeown said about his first NHL development camp. “We’ve been here for a couple of days, and we’re learning a lot. That’s what development camp is about.”
“You can definitely tell that you’re in an NHL development camp,” McKeown added. “The coaching is amazing. O.C. (Mike O’Connell), Nellie (Nelson Emerson) and Mike Donnelly—they really preach. We do some martial arts stuff, and we do some dry land workouts.”
The 18-year-old, 6-1, 186-pound native of Listowel, Ontario also noted that the prospects spent a lot of time watching instructional video.
“We do a lot of watching video of the LA Kings themselves, seeing how they have won two Cups in three years,” said McKeown. “There’s a reason for that. That’s why they’re the LA Kings. Just being able to watch that and learn from that is pretty special. That’ll make me a better player.”
“The big thing the Kings preach is athleticism, being aware and just the finer details of the game—two hands on the stick and be ready all the time,” added McKeown. “Those are things that make you a better player and they’re things that you can take away [from the camp].”
During drills at the camp, McKeown’s skating ability—the Kings have said that he is an “NHL-ready skater” right now—was readily apparent, which fits his game.
“A transitional defenseman is how I describe my game,” said McKeown. “Getting back for pucks, moving it up to the forwards, and using my agility and my speed to my advantage.”
Something that obviously caught the attention of the Kings was the fact that McKeown, who has played two seasons for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, had a poor -24 plus/minus ranking in 2012-13, but earned a +38 mark in 2013-14, a huge difference of +62.
One reason for the big improvement was that Kingston had a better team last season. But that is not the whole story.
“A lot of it is maturity, a lot of it [was] our goals for vs. goals against, as a team, in those two years,” McKeown observed. “My game has definitely grown, and I’ve rounded it out more.”
Improved defensive play by McKeown was a key factor as well.
“My second year, I definitely became more of a defensive guy,” he noted. “I really worked on that part of my game and I attribute that to the plus/minus difference.”
McKeown pointed to positional play and physical play as the areas in which he improved the most.
“Positionally, I was better,” he said. “Defending in the corners, behind harder to play against, knocking those big guys off the puck. Those are things that come with maturity and strength. That’s where I improved.”
As with any 18-year-old prospect, there is still a lot of work to do.
“I just need to add structure [to my game],” said McKeown. “I need to add that level of positional structure. That’s what’s going to help me moving forward.”
“[My game] has improved, but I’m getting better all the time and at the next level, you’re playing against bigger guys, especially in the [NHL’s] Western Conference,” added McKeown. “Getting bigger, getting stronger—those are things that have to come [in order] to play in Los Angeles.”
After seeing him for the first time during the development camp, the Kings’ development staff are encouraged by what they saw from McKeown.
“He’s very coachable and a hard worker,” said Donnelly, who works with the team’s development staff and serves as a collegiate scout. “Those are things that, as a teacher, are all you can expect out of kids. He’s going to get better and it’s really important to have someone who’s open to change.”
When the 2014-15 season begins, McKeown, who will participate in Canada’s camp for their World Junior Championship (Under-20) team in August, just might have a bit more of a fire lit under him than he has ever had before.
Despite being ranked 27th by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau in their final rankings for the 2014 NHL Draft, McKeown was not selected by the Kings until two-thirds of the second round was complete on June 28. That left him an entire night and a good portion of the following morning to feel the sting of being passed over in the first round and to wonder why he dropped way down into the second round.
That said, McKeown is not dwelling on any of that. Instead, he is using it as motivation.
“I wasn’t happy about it,” he recalled. “It’s definitely frustrating, but the Kings drafted me and that’s who I’m working for now. I couldn’t be more honored to be selected by L.A. Saying that, [being selected in] the first round would’ve been an honor, but that’s frustration. That’s going to make me work harder every day to make Los Angeles. That’s strictly motivation.”
“[The Kings are] a great organization and it’s definitely an honor to be in this organization,” he added. “Saying that, my goal is to make this team. That’s my main focus.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Roland McKeown (7:10)
Frozen Royalty’s 2014 Off-Season LA Kings Prospects Coverage
- LA Kings Believe The Time Is Now For Forward Prospect Andy Andreoff
- LA Kings Are Banking On Brayden McNabb Being A Ready For Prime Time Player In 2014-15
- “Simpler” And “Smarter” Will Be Keywords For LA Kings Defenseman Prospect Colin Miller in 2014-15
- LA Kings Center Prospect Nick Shore Doesn’t Stand Out, But That’s A Good Thing
- LA Kings Center Prospect Jordan Weal Is “Doing Everything He Possibly Can To Become An NHL Player”
- RW Prospect Scott Sabourin Could Be Another Diamond In The Rough For LA Kings
- Transition From College Hockey To The AHL Hasn’t Been Easy For LA Kings D Prospect Derek Forbort
- LA Kings Goalie Prospect J.F. Berube Looks To Take An Even Bigger Step Forward In 2014-15
- Adding Strength Is The Priority For LA Kings Defenseman Prospect Zac Leslie
- You’ll Have To Look Closely To See Where LA Kings LW Prospect Valentin Zykov Has Improved
- LA Kings 2014 1st Round Draft Pick Adrian Kempe Returns To Sweden, But Not Before Making Solid First Impression
- A Glimpse At The Critical Role Development Has Played In LA Kings’ Championships
- Frozen Royalty Begins 2014 Off-Season Coverage With Photos From LA Kings 2014 Development Camp
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