By Warren Kozireski —
Only 18 games into his professional hockey career with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the American Hockey League and 2018 New York Rangers third round draft choice Joey Keane already is looking comfortable.
The 6’0”, 187 lb. right shot defenseman led the team in goals with six and was tied for third on the team in assists with six. All but three of those points came at even strength.
As of Nov. 21, he stood fourth among all AHL rookies in scoring and was seventh among all blueliners.
“It’s been great,” Keane said after a November 22nd game. “The team is having success and that’s usually when the players have success.
“You’re playing against bigger, stronger guys so you have to be harder everywhere and you can’t really have any off games or you’ll be exposed, so you just have to show up every night.
“We do have some older guys like (Vincent) LoVerde and (Nick) Ebert on the back end, so just watching how they simplify the game so I just try to take after that and implement that into my game.”
Drafted one year after his initial eligibility at 18 years old in 2017, Keane used that as motivation for his best offensive campaign with 12 goals and 44 points in 62 games with Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League. He earned Third-Team All-Star honors and led all blueliners in the league with a +45 plus/minus rating.
The Chicago native has already had a four-game point streak and a pair of two-game goal scoring runs in his young pro career.
The Rangers are building quite the stockpile of defensemen in their top-ranked system with three already on the NHL roster turning 22 next year in Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek; Tony D’Angelo turning 25 while Jacob Trouba and Brady Skjei both will be 26 years old.
Add former first round draft picks K’Andre Miller (U. Wisconsin) and Nils Lundkvist (Sweden) along with second rounder Matthew Robertson (Edmonton-WHL) along with several others and Keane will need to battle for a roster spot.
“We have a lot of good “D”, so you have to be on your game every night or else there are guys who can replace you. I don’t really think about it; just go out and play hockey.”