As tough as the Hurricanes’ conditioning camp might be, Keegan Lowe
is enjoying this visit to Raleigh more than his last.
Lowe, an 18-year-old defenseman playing for Edmonton of the Western Hockey League, was is town back in June of 2006 to see his father’s Oilers take on the Hurricanes in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. That event did not turn out the way he had hoped at the time, but he said he carries no painful memories into camp this week.
“I was over it before the draft,” said the Canes’ recent third-round pick, smiling.
Lowe, the son of longtime Oilers player and front office executive Kevin Lowe, made headlines at the draft when his father revealed to the media that his son had requested that the Oilers not draft him if given the opportunity. The younger Lowe didn’t mention that at the time of his selection, but explained his decision following Monday’s on-ice session at the Polar Ice House in Wake Forest.
“As a kid I always dreamed of playing for the Oilers, but when it actually came up I started thinking about all the different situations that would come with it,” he said. “That organization has always been great to me, but there have been a lot of naysayers in my life and I had to go off on my own. I wanted to prove that it’s been me the whole time and I’m just getting pointers from my dad like everyone else.”
If Lowe does have a leg up on the 11 other campers in town this week, it’s his familiarity with the process. It’s designed to be an eye opener for prospects who may not come in with an understanding of how much off-ice preparation goes into being an NHL player.
Though he’s going through it himself for the first time, Lowe, who’s been around the Oilers organization his whole life, more or less knows the drill.
“I’ve been to a lot of development camps just because growing up I’d have time off in the summer and would want to come hang around and see what guys were doing,” he said. “In some ways I still didn’t know what to expect because every team does their training differently, but this is where I’ll be from now on, so it’s good to come down here to see what they want.”
While aware of his family history, it’s clear that the Hurricanes selected him based on his own merit. Having bulked up significantly over the course of last season – Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald estimates that he’s grown from his listing of 6-foot-1 and 176 pounds – he’s now able to effectively play his preferred rugged style (he racked up 123 penalty minutes last season) while shutting down opposing forwards.
With that in mind, it’s his untapped offensive potential that has the Hurricanes excited about what they see as an eventual two-way threat. Point totals over his two-year junior career have been modest thus far – he’s scored 2 goals in each season, topping out at 24 points in year two – but from the quick and accurate release he’s shown at this week’s camp, it’s clear he could score more.
Having honed his defensive game, something that was required of him when breaking into the rough-and-tumble WHL as a 16-year-old and is still his priority today, his goal for next season and beyond is become a better all-around player.
“This season I was definitely more defensive, but when I was younger I loved to rush the puck,” he said. “I know I have a lot more to offer on the offensive side. I’m a much better offensive player than 2 goals.”