Joey Keane key Piece for Pack and possibly Rangers
Joey Keane was drafted 88th overall in the 3rd round of the 2018 Entry Draft by the Rangers, a pick received from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Nick Holden and now former Wolf Pack defenseman Rob O’Gara. Keane took part in his first pro training camp with the New York Rangers just prior to the 2018-19 season and put a hit on Mika Zibanejad during a 1 on 1 drill that was hard enough to knock the wind out of him for a few moments, it made quite the impression.
Keane suited up for one preseason game, a 6-4 loss to the Flyers where he was a -2, before being sent back to the Barrie Colts of the OHL. Fast forward to 2019, a newly signed pro contract as of March 4th and another camp which he notched an assist in a loss to the Devils back on September 20th saw Keane as a potential candidate to make the team out of training camp, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Tony DeAngelo and his holding out for a contract. Those questions became answers that same day though as DeAngelo would sign a 1 year deal with the Rangers which meant the next stop for Keane was Hartford.
Keane continued to impress and found himself on the Wolf Pack’s opening night roster over the likes of now 3rd year pro Brandon Crawley whom made an impression 2 seasons ago scoring against the Devils in the preseason but injuries and a lack of discipline found him in the ECHL with the Maine Mariners to start this season. Despite that, when the 2019-20 Hartford Wolf Pack opened the season on October 5th, no one could have predicted how important a player like Joey Keane was going to be for the team.
At 4:03 of the 1st period with the Pack trailing 1-0 to the defending Calder Cup Champion Charlotte Checkers, Keane unloaded a shot from the right circle to tie the game at 1 for the team’s first goal of the season and his first professional goal. Ever since then, the Chicago native has dressed in 18 more games and scored 6 goals to go with 7 assists for 13 points which rank 2nd on the team to Vinni Lettieri. His 6 goals also match Lettieri for the team lead while his 7 assists are 4th behind Lettier (9)i, Danny O’Regan (9) and Steven Fogarty (8).
What really stands out are that his 6 goals currently lead all defensemen in the AHL and are tied for 4th amongst all AHL rookies. He also ranks 4th among rookies in scoring with his 13 points. While still inexperienced at the pro level, Keane has decent offensive numbers for a defenseman with his best season in juniors coming in 2017-18 with Barrie where he scored 12 goals and added 32 assist and even last season split between Barrie and the London Knights where he had 8 goals and 31 assists in 66 total games.
Though quoted as not considering himself an offensive defenseman, Joey Keane’s numbers early on this season seem to say otherwise. One of the biggest positives of Keane is that his numbers have filled the void left by John Gilmour who left for Buffalo this past offseason but much like Gilmour, his defensive game is suspect at times which have lead to instances where he’s been caught behind the rush. The Wolf Pack defense has seen a lot of improvement this season despite its struggles in a recent string of games against the Syracuse Crunch and Rochester Americans that have seen the Pack lose 3 straight in regulation. Joey Keane has been a key piece of the turnaround which could see his stock rise in the organization and potentially compete for a top 6 spot next season with this Rangers
There are also similarities between Joey Keane and Brady Skjei when you compare the time each has spent here in Hartford despite a much smaller sample size from Keane. While it’s hard to predict the future in general, much less in hockey or sports, I could see Joey Keane making a case for an All-Star selection in January and even earn a call up to the Rangers even if only for a cup of coffee. Regardless of how the season turns out for the Wolf Pack or for Joey Keane, there is no doubt that he will be a key player for the Pack as this season progresses. The best part about a player like Joey Keane and what he’s done thus far is that he’s just getting started