2010-11 was a year to remember for Keegan Lowe and the Edmonton Oil Kings. Following a season removed from playoff contention a year prior, Oil Country's WHL representative returned to post-season action.
"We wanted to take a big step from [last season] with the new coaches and all that," Lowe explained. "I think we had a pretty good year. We went out in four straight against Red Deer, but it was a big stepping-stone.
"We still have a lot of young guys coming back next year. It's going to help us a lot for next year and I think we can make a good run after that."
On a personal level, Lowe came into the season looking to build on a rookie year that saw him produce 14 points in 69 games. Although production was solid on one side, his concerning -16 rating provided a focal point for improvement as his sophomore year got underway.
Lowe responded, posting a fantastic +33 rating in 71 games; leading his club in this category.
"I thought I locked down my defensive play a lot better," he said. "I wanted to be a guy the coaches could lean on in tough situations. I feel like I improved at a steady pace all year and took responsibility in my own end. I thought [my season] was pretty good."
Lowe concluded the season with two goals and 24 points on his second-year resume. While the scoring totals were a pleasant addition, his well rounded style away from the opponent's net helped express his role as a shutdown blueliner.
"I think I'm a good, responsible defensive defenceman who can shut down other teams' top lines," Lowe described. "I make a good first pass and take care of the little things on the ice."
In addition to his pinpoint defensive work, Lowe developed a unique physical edge that featured 123 penalty minutes, many which were amassed through toe-to-toe encounters with his opponents.
"Fighting is part of the game," Lowe explained. "With our team, we're really close-knit group. If someone is taking liberties or something like that, I'm not afraid to jump in there. Anyone else would do the same for me.
"If we're not having a good game or we need to pick it up, there's always going to be someone who's going to step up, and I'm not afraid to do that as well."
Quite literally, Lowe was willing to work on everything. Fighting has traditionally been considered an on-ice skill in world of hockey, where practice time can be limited or even non-existent. The 6'0", 168-pound defenceman has worked on an tactical strengths, developing an aggressive style that makes up for potential discrepancies in size.
Local supporters have likely become accustomed to such ferocity. Rexall Place was home to the AHL's Edmonton Roadrunners during the 2004-05 season, where Rocky Thompson accumulated 231 penalty minutes, establishing his name as one of the league's elite enforcers.
As Lowe recalled, Thompson's addition to the Oil Kings coaching team in 2007-08 was an excellent accompaniment to his development plan.
"[Thompson] had a lot of experience in that field, so he helped me out a lot with that kind of stuff."
While Lowe took pride in his desire to improve, the assistance of coaches and mentors have helped him reach greater heights as a developing prospect. The availability of coaching personnel and other resources has helped, too.
"Playing hockey with an organization like the Oil Kings is awesome because we have all the help we need," Lowe explained. "You get a lot of good feedback from the coaches and constant video on practice and one-on-one stuff."
As you would expect, no one has had more of an influence on Keegan's career than his father. Kevin Lowe played 13 complete seasons with the Oilers, in the process winning five Stanley Cups, including four on Rexall Place ice where Keegan's promising career has begun.
While Kevin's playing career was certainly illustrious, his calling in Edmonton extended to Head Coach, General Manager and now President of Hockey Operations positions. Beyond that, he was and still is the prototypical role model for his talented son.
"Just like any young kid growing up playing hockey, their dad plays a big role," Keegan said. "With my dad being who he is and having a lot of experience in pro hockey, I think that's helped me out a lot throughout my career. Just having a mentor like that is great and I'm really lucky to have it."
Now, with the 2010-11 season over and June quickly approaching, the biggest event in the 18-year-old's career will take place, potentially making a lifelong dream come true.
"It's really exciting," said a smiling Lowe. "As a kid, you grow up thinking about getting drafted to an NHL team and putting on the jersey. It will be exciting to see what happens."
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com