The Canucks didn’t have a pick in the third round after moving it to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the J.T. Miller trade, so there was a gap between big cheers at Rogers Arena. They delayed things a little longer in the fourth round, trading the 102nd pick to the Buffalo Sabres for the 122nd and 175th picks.
Finally, the Canucks were back on the clock for the 122nd pick and got a rousing cheer from the Canucks fans in the crowd. But that cheer was dwarfed by the one that erupted from one specific section when the Canucks selected Ethan Keppen.
Keppen had a large group of supporters with him at the draft and they couldn’t have been more thrilled. Keppen estimated that he had over 20 people with him at the draft.
“My parents were here. I got a lot of people, got my whole family, got my cousins. My step dad came, my uncles,” said Keppen. “I got my billet family here as well. The whole Flint staff came here. This was just a special moment to share.”
Like his entourage, Keppen’s got some size. He’s 6’2” and 212 lbs, which goes well with his style of play.
“I'm a power forward type player that plays a 200 foot game, that can play any situation,” he said. “Power play, and penalty kill, and even when we're up by a goal, I'll be on just to defend it. If we're down by a goal, I'll be on just trying to score a goal.”
“I play a gritty game that doesn't back down from any one-on-one battle,” he added.
That jibes with scouting reports that praise him for his two-way game and compete level. He has a strong defensive game, particularly on the penalty kill, and gets in hard on the forecheck. Cam Robinson highlights his work ethic in his profile on Keppen for NextGen Hockey.
“Rarely does he take a shift off, and relies on his gritty style to disrupt the opposition,” says Robinson. “While lacking separation speed, he has the wheels to get in on the forecheck and cause havoc.”
Offensively, Keppen can snipe goals from the slot or wing, but also doesn’t hesitate to crash the net to score garbage goals as well. His north-south approach to the game is straight-forward, but effective.
Keppen has good finish around the net and a lot of power on his shot, which allows him to score goals in multiple ways. While not a natural playmaker, the way he opens up ice does create passing lanes and scoring chances.
“His best attribute is a mental-one, which is his compete-level,” says Hockey Prospect. “He thrives in the tough areas on the ice and is at his best when attacking around the net area. His straight-ahead style of play forced defenseman to gravitate towards him which helped open up the ice for his linemates.”
NextGen Hockey had Keppen ranked 72nd, Hockey Prospect had him at 90, and Elite Prospects had him at 84th. For the Canucks to get him 122nd overall, that seems like good value.
If all goes well, Keppen can develop into a third-line checking winger for the Canucks, with some offensive upside to possibly move up into a top-six role with the right linemates.
When it comes to weaknesses, Keppen is forthright about where he needs work.
“My skating, my first three steps, try to be quick as possible,” said Keppen. “Obviously, the NHL is the NHL and it's a fast game, so I want to be quick as possible.”
“Bad boots,” reads the report from one NHL scout quoted by Hockey Prospect, but their profile on him has room for a little positivity when it comes to his skating.
“His fluidity is a plus due to his balance and cross-over mechanics,” says Hockey Prospect, “but his stride is short. It’s going to be difficult for him to be an impactful forechecker and a penalty-kill specialist, if he can’t create pressure with a further increase in his overall speed.”
Keppen seems like a solid selection for the Canucks in the fourth round, as he has a strong two-way game, but also had the puck skills and shot to produce at the OHL level.