The Kingston Frontenacs have had a great season, finishing third in the OHL’s Eastern Conference. The team has been led by a number of younger players, including three who could be potential first round draft picks in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Sam Bennett, Spencer Watson, and Roland McKeown have teamed with veterans like Ryan Kujawinski, Michael Moffat, Evan McEneny, Henri Ikonen. and Matt Mahalak to bring the Frontenacs to the forefront of the OHL this year.
Bennett is a potential top three draft pick, who finished the year with 91 points in 56 games. McKeown was second on the team in scoring amongst defenceman with 43 points in 62 games. While Watson was second on the team with 33 goals, and third with 67 points in 63 games.
Earlier we interviewed Sam Bennett. You can find that interview by clicking here.
On Sunday, I had the chance to speak with McKeown and Watson.
McKeown was a healthy scratch as with everything clinched as far as playoff seeding was concerned, the team was resting him up for the OHL playoffs and the first round series the Frontenacs have with the Peterborough Petes. For your information here is my look at McKeown from February, when he was ranked 11th in our midterm draft preview. The interview took place during the second intermission of Sunday’s game against Mississauga.
11) Roland McKeown, D, Kingston Frontenacs, (6’1″ 186 lbs): Last year, McKeown had a strong rookie season with Kingston, playing top 4 minutes on a club that was vastly improved this season over 2011-12. In the spring he won Gold with Canada at the Under 18 Worlds, and spent summer winning gold at the Hlinka. This season he’s taken his game up another notch playing huge minutes for a Kingston team that is currently second in the Eastern Division. He has put up 34 points in 48 games. His skating ability is at an elite level and features excellent speed and acceleration both forwards and backwards, great pivots, excellent lateral agility, and fantastic edgework. He is so smooth on his skates, its like he’s floating above the ice. The mobility allows McKeown to always be in position defensively, and to join the play offensively. He shows confidence and poise with the puck on his stick, and is really developing into a solid two-way defenceman. His offensive game is keyed by smart decision making and excellent passing skills. His shot isn’t the hardest, but he gets it through to the net, and it is accurate. However he looks more like a powerplay quarterback type who runs the play with his smart offense than the big bomber from the point. Defensively his mobility keeps him in position to make plays, and a good active stick help him to cut down passing and shooting lanes. He works hard in the corners, and is willing to battle in front of the net, but he could add more muscle to his frame, and play a more physical game as he’s not really a big hitter.
LWOS: Thanks for doing this for us today. How are you doing Roland?
Roland McKeown: I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.
LWOS: When you joined Kingston the team was in a bit of a down period. The club improved last year, and this season it seems like you’ve taken another step forward. How does it feel to be such a big part of the rebuilding program and getting the team to where they are today?
RM: Last year we came with a blueprint, and a plan in place. Its working out really well this year as we come towards the playoffs. We were hot and cold earlier in the year, but in the last little bit we’ve really been playing well.
LWOS: This season there has been a lot of hype around three Frontenacs. There is Sam Bennett, Spencer Watson, and obviously yourself, who are all potential round picks for the NHL Draft. What is it like going through your draft year with two teammates in the same position?
RM: Its great to have the ability to talk to them about it, and to get that support. I think we all support each other really well. I think that as we go into the playoffs, team success is going to bring personal success. Its important to work hard for the playoffs.
LWOS: Your head coach is Todd Gill, and he obviously had a long career in the NHL. As a defenceman, how has he been able to help you with your game?
RM: He has some really great pointers. Todd played over 1000 games in the NHL, and he knows all the little things that can really help you out on the ice.
LWOS: Do you have a favorite player that you watch in the NHL, and someone that you try to model your game after?
RM: Drew Doughty and Cam Fowler are two players I’ve watched a lot and look up to. The way they play the game is very much the way I want to play it. Anytime, you can find a good role model it will certainly help you going forward.
LWOS: With the playoffs starting later this week, what are a couple keys you need to be ready for Peterborough, and to go on a long run in the playoffs?
RM: We need to work really hard in practice this week and be ready to go for Peterborough. They have a great first line with (Eric) Cornel, (Hunter) Garlant, and (Nick) Ritchie there so we have to be aware and really stick to our system to have success.
Spencer Watson played on Sunday, picking up an assist in the 4-1 win over Mississauga. Here is his profile from earlier in the year.
“Spencer Watson, LW, Kingston Frontenacs, 5’10″ 157 lbs: Watson may not be as highly touted as his two Kingston teammates, Sam Bennett and Roland McKeown in our first two rankings, but he’s a potential first round draft pick in his own right. The pure sniper who plays on a line with Bennett, he is able to find openings in the defence from which to unleash a fantastic wrist shot or one-timer. His shot is powerful, accurate and features a great release. He also has the speed and stickhandling ability to join the rush with his linemate and to create goals on odd man rushes. He’s willing to go to the dirty areas to score goals, and has the soft hands to bury rebounds and tip ins close to the net. His playmaking game is underrated at this point because he’s such a great sniper, but the passing skills ansd vision are also there. Like Bennett, he must add muscle to his frame. “
I had a chance to catch up with Watson after the game.
LWOS: You guys picked up a 4-1 win today. How do you guys feel after your final tune-up before going into the playoffs?
Spencer Watson: It was a great game. We knew Mississauga was going to come out hard, fighting for their playoff lives. We wanted to have a strong game before we head into the playoffs, and I felt that we really did that.
LWOS: The Frontenacs have had a really solid season. Over the last two years the team has taken some great steps forward and are now one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Whats the secret to the improvement?
SW: We’ve really grown as a team, and Todd Gill has really taught us a lot. If we stick to our systems we can succeed as we have a talented group of guys here.
LWOS: You are going through a big year, being your draft year. You get to go through the year with teammates like Roland McKeown and Sam Bennett who are also going through some of the same things. How does going through that experience together help you out?
SW: It helps a lot, anytime you can go through this big experience with good teammates, its a great help and support for all of us.
LWOS: What have you worked on in your game this year, and what has helped you with your breakout season so far?
SW: I’ve really worked on my game in the defensive zone, and staying sound defensively. If I can do that, I will get the chance to capitalize on offensive opportunities.
LWOS: Is there anyone in the NHL that you try to model your game after.
SW: A player like Jeff Skinner (of the Carolina Hurricanes) is right up my alley. He’s a very good player that I look up to.
LWOS: With the playoffs starting, what do you guys have to do to take out Peterborough and to be ready for a long playoff run.
SW: We need to stay confident, and no matter what happens never get too down and just keep pushing through whatever adversity we might face.
You can follow Spencer Watson on twitter (@swatty96) and the Kingston Frontenacs (@KingstonFronts) and (@FrontsInGame) as well as on their website kingstonfrontenacs.com as they make their way through the OHL playoffs.
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