Wednesday, August 8, 2012

One To Watch: Carolina Hurricanes

Unlike with most teams I've done thus far in this series, the Carolina Hurricanes presented a bit of a different sort of challenge. With other teams it was hard to narrow it down to a single guy because there were so many players that I like. That's not really the case with the 'Canes. 

No offence meant to "Cane-iacs" out there but I've kind of given up on guys I once expected big things for - Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe for example. It might be premature on my part but that's where I am, just being honest. 

It didn't help that the team just traded Brian Dumoulin to Pittsburgh, arguably their top prospect. You could make a valid argument for Ryan Murphy and now he probably is the guy on top of the list. 

This time I picked someone based almost entirely on where he'll play this year because I will get to see a lot of him.

Photo: John Allen

Keegan Lowe (D)

Edmonton Oil Kings
6'3, 186 lbs
Drafted 73rd overall in 2011

2011 was a good draft year for the Oil Kings with four players being selected from the team by NHL clubs. There was a lot of debate as to which guy would be picked first and most expected that would be leading scorer Michael St. Croix (NYR) or power forward Travis Ewanyk (EDM). That's why it was a bit of a surprise when defenceman Keegan Lowe's name was called out before either skater and goaltender Laurent Brossoit (CGY) as well. 

Everyone knows that Keegan is the son of Edmonton Oilers President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe. It can't be an easy thing to play the same position in the same city where your father won multiple Stanley Cups and now heads up a NHL franchise. Keegan asked the Oilers not to draft him, they complied with his wish and Carolina drafted him. 

With the Oil Kings, Lowe has been a top 4 defenceman for the last couple of seasons. He's played alongside Mark Pysyk (BUF) for much of his junior career which has been both a good and bad thing. Good because together they make a pretty good tandem, bad because Pysyk is much better than Lowe is and it showed when they were side by side. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
Lowe's strengths are a big shot, he has a physical edge to his game and likes to jump into the offensive attack.  He's one of the team's penalty leaders as he's always willing to drop the gloves if the opportunity arises. Lowe had 23 points and 139 PIMs last season. 

I think one of Lowe's challenges is knowing when and when not to pinch and he gets caught out of position a lot. He's not the most mobile and gets beat wide by the league's speedier forwards. Overall hockey sense might be the best was to categorize where Lowe has to improve the most.

He's played internationally for USA in the past, at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, but hasn't had a sniff from either the Americans or Hockey Canada since then. 

Photo: Jamie Kellner
This coming season will be a big one for Lowe; It's his 19-year-old season and he'll be playing for a NHL contract from Carolina too. He could return in 2013-14 as one of Edmonton's overage players and based on what I've seen to this point, that might be as likely as him earning a contract and avoid going back into the draft.

Who will he be partnered with this year? With Pysyk not coming back to the WHL, does Lowe get bumped off the top pairing and maybe paired up with a younger player like 17-year-old Mason Geertsen, a tougher stay at home guy? 

Can Lowe step up in the leadership department as one of the older players on the team and the club looking for a new captain? The team has several worthy candidates to wear the 'C' but leadership isn't always determined by letters. 

Photo: Andy Devlin
What I am most interested in seeing is if there will be an obvious, development in on ice maturity from Lowe. To me he's almost played like a stay-at-home defenceman who wants to be more than that but might not be able to be. I personally would like to see him concentrate on getting the job done defensively and let guys like Martin Gernat (EDM) and Cody Corbett take on the offensive role.  

There are a lot of questions and uncertainty around Lowe and that's what makes a great story. It's also why I pegged Keegan Lowe as "One to Watch" in 2012-13 for the Carolina Hurricanes.     

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