Top 25 Under 25: #15 Keegan Lowe

Position: Defense
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lbs.
3rd Round, 2011 Draft
Age: 20
Last Year's Ranking: 21

Keegan Lowe
Season Age Team Lge GP G A Pts P/G
2009-10 16 Edmonton Oil Kings WHL 69 2 12 14 0.2
2010-11 17 Edmonton Oil Kings WHL 71 2 22 24 0.34
2011-12 18 Edmonton Oil Kings WHL 72 3 20 23 0.32
2012-13 19 Edmonton Oil Kings WHL 64 15 16 31 0.48

Being the relative of a former NHL great is never an easy thing because it usually comes with lofty expectations and some unfair comparisons that can last for a player's entire career. For Keegan Lowe, son of former Oilers & Rangers defenseman Kevin Lowe, it's been especially hard to live up to expectations because not only is he the son of a former NHL-er, but he has played his entire junior career in the city that his father won Stanley Cups in. The name on the back of Keegan's jersey has caused him to be the subject of a lot of attention from those in Edmonton along with a some criticism from opposing fans & players. Some will point to Lowe's bloodlines as the main reason why Lowe was drafted so early but this claim is ridiculous when you look at everything he brings to the table.

When he was drafted, Lowe was pegged as a physical, rugged defenseman with not a lot of offensive upside but some potential in this area. He is known for getting into a lot of fights and plays a hard-hitting game in his own zone to make things tough on opposing forwards. While those are nice qualities to have, being a hard-hitting defenseman will only get you so far in the NHL. Playing well in your own end is obviously important, but being able to move the puck forward and keep play out of your own zone is just as important, if not more with how fast the game moves today. This is why many wanted to see Lowe's skating and offensive instincts improve and they appear to have done just that over the last two seasons.

Normally a stay-at-home defenseman, the Oil Kings used Lowe on the power play a lot more this past season and he really took advantage of it by having a career offensive season. Lowe was much more dynamic both with and without the puck and played a much more aggressive style in the offensive zone than he has before. He pinched more often, went to the net whenever he had the opportunity and was more of an efficient passer than he was in years past. Lowe's always possessed a good shot from the point, but he was more of an offensive force this season and it really helped add another dimension to his game.

One downside that came with Lowe's new style of play is that he would get a little too aggressive in the offensive zone at times. This resulted in him getting caught deep and making bad reads on forwards when trying to defend in transition. Lowe's skating has improved enough that he could be a high-risk type of defenseman at the professional level, but he seemed to be at his best while playing more of a safe, stay-at-home game. Finding a balance between these two styles will be key for him as he tries to make it in the NHL.

Lowe's counting stats and his aggressive playing style were nice to see, but it was during December and early-January where Lowe really shined thia past year. The Oil Kings lost two key defensemen in Griffin Reinhart and David Musil to the World Junior Championships and Lowe had to take on a lot of extra responsibility to help soften the blow. Not only that, but he also took over as captain of the Oil Kings and helped them get through this stretch while keeping one of the top spots in the Western Hockey League. This earned him honors as the team's MVP and will be one of the first choices for captain next season if he returns.

It's not certain that he will be back next year, though because it's his final year of eligibility and he has already stated that his goal is to make the Charlotte Checkers out of camp. With Charlotte's training camp already being heavily populated with defensemen, it might be tough for Lowe to make the final six/seven spots and even if he does, he could struggle to earn playing time unless he really impresses the coaching staff. If this is the case, then him returning to Edmonton for his overage year may not be the worst thing in the world because he will definitely get top minutes there and possibly wear the C if his play from last season means anything.

Lowe has his sights set higher than that, though and he has really come a long way over the last two seasons, so I'm sure he would rather be in Charlotte rather than spend another year in juniors. Both the Checkers and Hurricanes front office seem to be high on him, as he signed his entry level deal this spring and should get a decent look in training camp. Lowe was one of a few prospects who made considerable improvements this past season, which is why I have him jumping six spots in this year's rankings. Hopefully he can follow suit next year and break into the AHL full-time.