Oil Kings' Lowe steps up

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

For Keegan Lowe, it was supposed to be a gradual process.

It was expected the Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman would be eased into the Western Hockey League as a 16-year-old.

However, as the injuries began to mount and the Oil Kings began to struggle, the team began to ask more of their young blueliner.

Surprisingly, despite his youth, Lowe was able to deliver.

“It was obviously a big positive, getting that experience, when most 16-year-olds wouldn’t have gotten as much as I did,” said Lowe. “Hopefully, that will give me a lot more confidence this year. It’s a big year for me. I’m hoping to have a breakthrough year, especially with it being my draft year.”

On Sunday, Lowe was back on the blue line for the Oil Kings as they wrapped up their annual preseason invitational tournament in St. Albert against the Medicine Hat Tigers. He looked like a completely different player then the one who took part in the event last year.

“At the start of last season, it was nerve-wracking going up against 19- and 20-year-olds,” Lowe said. “But as the season went on, I started getting more experience and more and more confidence in myself. Then by the end of the season, I was playing a lot of minutes and started thinking that I could be an impact player in this league.”

Lowe’s improvement last year was significant and it didn’t go unnoticed.

This summer, the son of Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe, was called to play with Team U.S.A at the World Under-17 Hockey Championships.

“That was a good time, it was a great experience,” said Lowe, who was eligible to play for both Canada and the U.S. “Any time you can play at a high level and represent your country, it’s always an honour.

“We didn’t do as well as we would have liked to, but it was a great group of guys, it was fun hockey. Off the start, I wasn’t relied on as much, but as the tournament went along, the coaches started having some trust in me and I was playing a lot more.”

Heading into this season, Lowe is expected to be an important part of the Oil Kings blue line.

Along with Adrian Van De Mosselaer, Mark Pysyk and highly-touted rookie Griffin Reinhart, the Oil Kings defence is expected to be one of the team’s strengths this season.

“Keegan is a young player that we really want to see develop further this year,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal. “He’s a big strong kid that skates well. Sometimes we have to reel him in a little bit. He’s only 17 years old and he likes to lead the forecheck the odd time. But he’s the type of kid that’s going to continue to grow. We think he’s going to be a top defenceman in this league, either this year or next year.”

Having to step up and play the minutes he did last year not only allowed Lowe to expedite his development, it also helped him step away from his father’s enormous shadow.

Prior to joining the Oil Kings, Lowe, 17, had played high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota providing him with some anonymity.

“It’s great playing at home, living at home with my family,” he said. “Obviously I was away for two years before, so I came home to play in the Western Hockey League, which is a little different.

“The whole thing with my dad playing here, I just take it as a positive. After the season last year I had fewer people coming up to me and tell me the only reason I was on this team was because of my dad.

“It still doesn’t bother me. There is always going to be people that have something to say about it, for whatever reason, and I just have to ignore it.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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