While many eyes in camp this week are focused on new first round draft pick, Jake Bean, and former first round pick, Haydn Fleury, there is another talented blueliner who might slip under the radar and into the Hurricanes lineup sometime during the coming season.
Roland McKeown, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the Andrej Sekera deal over a year ago, has improved this past season so much that he was recognized as one of the finalists for the best defenseman in the OHL last season. The former second round pick, (50th overall) will turn professional this coming season, if not with the Canes than with the Charlotte Checkers.
Captain of his juniors team for the past two seasons, the steady blueliner contributed seven goals, 35 assists and 42 points in 55 games last season. He also had three goals, nine assists, and 12 points in nine playoff games.
The defenseman feels that his style of play will fit in well with the organization.
"I really like the way the Canes play, that really fits into my game. They are big believers in defending first and you have to be able to do that to be successful in this system. My skating ability and agility can help me to move the puck and jump into the play at times but there is no doubt about it, defending is my first attribute and that is what I feel I can best bring to the team."
I asked him about his improvement over the past season. He is another player who trains with Gary Roberts.
"I have just felt better and better every year. My conditioning and training over the summer with Gary Roberts has helped a lot and confidence is important. Energy and confidence is huge in today's game......you have to believe in yourself in today's game, so over the past seasons I think I have improved on that and that has helped me develop."
Next, I asked him what NHL player he patterns himself after.
"I like a lot of different guys but someone I really like is Alex Pietrangelo. In terms of success I think he is a guy you can really look up to. He has had a very impressive NHL career and I respect his game a lot."
Number 55 on your program is someone to keep an eye on. He is one of several talented hockey players looking to impress coaches this week.
The ice session on Wednesday night was comprised of a variety of drills which really put the youngsters through their paces.
Coach Bill Peters spoke after the practice and said that he was impressed with the size and skill of this group. When asked which specific players stood out, he could not name one.
"They all skated by so quickly I could not tell one from another," he joked.
The players will be wearing numbered jerseys today to help identify them.
New Checkers coach Ulf Samuelsson and new goalie consultant Curtis Joseph were both on the ice and will be again on Thursday. The practice at 5:30 tonight will again be open to the public.