Keegan Lowe may have been the only member of the incoming rookie class to not spend at least some time in Charlotte last season, but he had a good reason.
For the second year in a row, the defenseman’s Edmonton Oil Kings team made it all the way to the WHL final, where it followed up its 2012 championship by losing to Portland in six games. Having made the deepest playoff run of any Carolina Hurricanes prospect, the Checkers’ season was already over by the time he had the opportunity to head south.
While prospects have come to value the brief late-season taste of the pro game at the AHL level – Danny Biega, Austin Levi and Ryan Murphy, the other defensemen expecting to turn pro next season, have all done it – the experience of making championship runs is a nice substitute.
“It would have been nice to get a quick tryout and taste like some of these guys got, but anytime you’re playing hockey as late as you can possibly go, you know you’re doing something right,” said Lowe, 20, who filled in as the Oil Kings’ captain whenever top New York Islanders prospect Griffin Reinhart was unavailable.
“He’s a winner,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels. “He’s been on a good team the last few years and he’s been a big part of that.”
Of course, Lowe already knows a thing or two about professional hockey through his father, legendary Edmonton Oilers defenseman and current president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe. Still, getting on the ice will be a different story.
“I know everything that comes with it with the professionalism and stuff, but when it comes to playing, you’ve got to play to get that experience,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to come to (last week’s Hurricanes development) camp and main camp two years ago, so that was the taste that I got and I’m looking forward to next year.”
Leaving Edmonton will be something of a new experience for Lowe, but it’s one that he’s prepared for. Prior to the 2011 draft, when the Hurricanes chose him in the third round, he actually requested that the Oilers allow another team to draft him, citing a desire to emerge from his family’s shadow and blaze his own trail.
He’s starting to do that now, as evidenced by his 15 goals in his most recent season, up from his previous career high of three one year earlier. For that, he may have some fatherly advice to thank.
“It’s always defense first, but my dad is always telling me there’s no such thing as a defensive defenseman in the game anymore,” said Lowe. “You’ve got to be able to do at least a little bit on the offensive side, and that’s what I really worked on last year. That was a big improvement and something that I need to do to make it to the next level.”
Add in the more rugged aspects of Lowe’s game – the 6-foot-2, 189-pound blueliner has topped the 100-minute mark in penalties in each of his last three seasons – and the organization may have a very well-rounded player on their hands.
In regards to the penalty totals, Lowe suggested that those came more from necessity than any lack of discipline.
“I just like to be a two-way defenseman and pride myself on being a good team guy,” said Lowe. “(Fighting) is something that comes with the game, and whether I do it once a year or 10 times a year, I’m not going out looking for it and by no means is it my game, but I’m always going to be there for my teammates.”
“He’s a great team guy and a guy that you want on your team,” said Daniels.