Player: Roland McKeown
Drafted By: Los Angeles Kings (50th overall)
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 27 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'1'', 186 lbs
DOB: January 20, 1996 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: OHL, Kingston Frontenacs
Roland McKeown earned the reputation as a strong on-ice leader early on in his career. He captained the Toronto Marlboros minor midget team throughout the 2011-12 season and led the team's defenders in scoring with 35 points in 28 regular-season contests.
That performance caught the attention of the Kingston Frontenacs—the team used its second overall pick in the OHL priority draft to make McKeown a member of the squad in 2012. The selection proved to be a sound one for the Frontenacs, as McKeown was named to the OHL's All-Rookie team following an outstanding first year in the league.
Expectations were high for McKeown as he went into his draft year, and the Listowel, Ontario, native didn't disappoint. Plus-minus is a flawed stat, but it's never a bad thing to go from a minus-24 to a plus-38 in just one year. That's what McKeown accomplished, and he's now considered one of the top two-way defensemen available in the 2014 NHL draft.
Full Scouting Report
Smart, reliable two-way defenders aren't necessarily considered draft-day gold, but McKeown is a player who brings a noticeably complete skill set to the table despite his age. He spoke to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com and described his own game this way:
I believe my game translates well at the next level. I think my skating, agility, IQ and strength to battle in the corners are all key components to making a successful pro. And I feel being able to do those things will get me to the next level.
Central Scouting's David Gregory is high on McKeown and had this to say about the defender, per Morreale's writeup:
I love this kid ... he can play offensively and move the puck and has a bomb of a shot. 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 is short on potentially high-end defensemen, McKeown possesses a lot of value because of his intelligent approach to the game.
NHL Player Comparison
Gregory sees a younger Brent Seabrook when he watches McKeown, and that comparison certainly makes sense. He plays a solid and steady game, just like the current Chicago Blackhawk, and while he'll never post Erik Karlsson-esque numbers, he knows how to get the puck up the ice while in transition.
As a general rule, defensemen take longer to make an impact at the NHL level than forwards do. McKeown doesn't rely on his size like some larger defenders might, but he could still use an extra season or two of development in the OHL.
Barring another big jump forward next year, don't expect to see McKeown earlier than the 2015-16 season.
McKeown probably won't win any scoring races, but that isn't where his value is. He's got top-four defensive anchor written all over him, and the Seabrook comparison gives you a good idea of where McKeown could top out at.