Roland McKeown is the top midget defenceman in Ontario (OHL Images)It's hardly a scoop to report that the best defenceman in the Ontario Hockey League's draft class, Roland McKeown, is willing to play for the Kingston Frontenacs, who will select second in Saturday's priority selection draft.
Pegging McKeown, whom HockeyProspect's invaluable OHL Draft Guide described as a defender who has the potential to change a game at level beyond major junior hockey, to Kingston has pretty much been a working assumption across the league for a couple weeks. What is noteworthy that the 16-year-old's adviser's comments in a Damien Cox column hint at how the perception of the franchise with the league's longest playoff series win drought (14 seasons) might be changing.
"No, not at all," said agent Murray Kuntz when asked if Toronto Marlies captain Roland McKeown, expected to go No. 2 to Kingston, would refuse to join the club.
"With the guys they have in place there now, certainly with Todd Gill as coach, it's a step in the right direction." (Toronto Star)
That's part of a longer column that runs over the same old ground from last spring, when Kingston selected Max Domi. As the whole junior hockey-liking world knows, the centre never reported, forcing a trade to the London Knights later in the summer.
That was hardly the first time a top player had tried to steer clear of Kingston, but in the long run, Frontenacs GM Doug Gilmour might have played it very well. The Domi deal and the No. 9 overall compensatory pick that came out of it was part of a greater parlay that has resulted in Kingston holding four of the first 24 picks. They also ended up effectively trading up after the fact to get the No. 4 choice from last spring with the Ryan Spooner deal with Sarnia that ushered in Ryan Kujawinski, who was a point-per-game player in the second half of the season.
It's early yet to say whether this will be a turnaround akin to what happened in Windsor in the mid-aughties. Gill and Gilmour aren't the owners, unlike Bob Boughner and Warren Rychel in Windsor, so there is a question about autonomy.
The franchise does seem to be moving away from the days of first-rounders who didn't report (Wes O'Neill, taken No. 2 in 2002) or were anted up in short-sighted trades. Forward Luke Pither, taken No. 4 overall in 2005 one spot ahead of present-day NHL star Drew Doughty, who is considered McKeown's comparable, was dealt for goaltending help after barely one season. Current Detroit Red Wings prospect Alan Quine was traded to Peterborough in the fall of 2010 for the older Spooner.
So on Saturday, Kingston has a chance to make over the franchise for several years down the line. At the very least, they have an important building block on the blueline.
From Doug Graham:
The Frontenacs would be acquiring a franchise-type player, according to Darrell Woodley, the director of central scouting for the OHL.
"The team who takes Roland McKeown will have a defenceman who they will be able to build a franchise around," Woodley said.
"McKeown would be the top-rated defenceman (in the draft) in our mind."
Woodley knows first-hand about the selection of a franchise defenceman. He was the Barrie Colts' director of player personnel last year when defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who received exceptional-player status, was picked first overall by the team.
Woodley said McKeown is similar to Ekblad in his play.
"McKeown is a really good skater and handles the puck well. He is not overly physical, (but) relies a lot on his body positioning," Woodley said. (Kingston Whig-Standard)
How important is this draft considered in turning Kingston around? Well, TV Cogeco Kingston put together a three-part series on the team's rebuilding. And no, it's not being linked here because some fat, dumb and bald guy appears on camera in the first segment. Just cover your eyes around the 1:05 mark. And again at 6:35.
Here's Part 2.
Part 3 includes some game footage of Connor McDavid, McKeown and fellow top newcomer Jared McCann.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.