There were a number of potential second generation Edmonton Oilers up for grabs at the 2011 NHL entry draft. The most prominent name had to have been Keegan Lowe, at least in my books. Kevin Lowe was the first ever Oilers draft pick, the first Oilers goal scorer and the list goes on and on. Having a dad like that might make for a lot of pressure for a young draft pick. Having a dad like that who is still a part of the organization, and one with a fan base as rabid as the Oilers' might make for a lot of pressure for a young draft kid. So, it was not surprising when I heard that Keegan had asked the Oilers not to draft him. Steve Tambellini, without saying it in so many words did admit something to that affect. It was Kevin Lowe who came right out and said that Keegan had asked the Oilers not to pick him. So, even though the Oilers scouts liked him, he was off of the list.
The Oilers' were about to make their second selection in the third round at 74, I was ready to update the live blog, when I heard Keegan Lowe's name called by the Carolina Hurricanes at 73. I won't lie to you, I was a little surprised, but at the same time happy for the defenseman I have enjoyed watching in an Oil Kings uniform. The first question we had for Keegan Lowe in the interview room, was it good or bad that you're not an Oiler? "Obviously I grew up being an Oilers fan, obviously with my dad working for the team. I know that everyone says that they don't care what team they go to, but I really, really wasn't worried. I want to play in the NHL and obviously Carolina was the team that liked me the most so selected me before anyone else. I'm really happy to be a part of the organization." The kid had done his PR homework, but he has also been raised for this day. Keegan knew what to say so he could be honest and yet say what the Hurricanes fans needed to hear.
How many are able to look at the Hurricanes jersey without thinking of the '06 run, Kevin Lowe can't be any different. "I'm sure he'll get to think about it a lot more, but I was there too. I was a little upset back then, but I guess now I'm happy."
With each selection, when you are there for the entirety of the second day, the pressure must mount. With every selection you have to think that you might be next. The Oilers had a selection immediately after the Hurricanes. Did Lowe think that the Oilers just might take him? "Yeah I mean, I was thinking that every pick, I was thinking maybe I would end up there. I talked to the Oilers but I talked to a lot of other teams too. They didn't have me where Carolina did"
I knew that Kevin Lowe was in the building and I had a sneaking suspicion that at the very least Lowe was texting with his son to encourage him. I had to ask, did he have any great words of wisdom to pass along? "He was just back and forth from the table when they were making their picks. He just said don't sweat it. It's all a level playing field again after the draft. Just find out what team you're going to, it doesn't matter the round. That was just my take on it too. I'm just happy to be picked but now the work starts all over again." That is the biggest takeaway, getting drafted is just a step closer to the NHL, it's not a step into the NHL.
Was there anything special in particular to take away from this year's draft? "In 2006 I was actually the Oilers' runner at the draft table. So, I got to see the whole experience. Then, last year in LA, with family I had another little get away too. I saw my defence partner Mark Pysyk go in the first round, that was pretty cool. So, you know I was just able to take it in. Yesterday I didn't think i was going in the first round and so I just watched that, enjoyed it and watched my buddies go. Today was my day, so it was pretty cool."
There were four Oil Kings selected at this year's NHL entry draft when all was said and done. "I think that it says a lot about our future, we're an up and coming team. We're getting a lot better, I think that's pretty cool. I was shaking everybody's hands when I heard Travis' [Ewanyk] name. I thought for sure he was going to go ahead of me. Being right next to each other, that's pretty cool too." Of course being teammates and friends there may have been some friendly competition or bets that may have to be paid up, but Lowe will always be able to remind Travis Ewanyk that he was selected first.
What does Lowe know of Carolina, his potential new home? "Well I know, obviously when I was a little kid, I thought Carolina hockey must not be big there. But then when the Oilers played there in '06 finals, I went down for game 7 it was amazing. They had the big party there in the parking lot and I was like wow, this is not what I expected. Everyone stood up for the whole game, but I was just a little kid so we were sitting down. I think we were the only ones sitting down in the rink. But you know they love their hockey there and it's a gorgeous state. I think I've been there twice." I did bite my tongue when Lowe expressed this. Although I was only there for one game, and on a Tuesday night, I was sad to see so few fans in such a nice new building. Perhaps Lowe can be a star that can help ensure that building is full.
I felt this was a great opportunity to ask Lowe if he felt that there was a significant difference between eastern and western conference hockey. "Not a whole lot. I see a difference between teams, lots of teams play different styles. I've watched the western conference a lot more just living in Edmonton, living in the west. It's just team by team. Some teams are just different from others." He does have a point, but I'll likely stick to my thought that eastern conference teams are more similar to each other than they are to western conference teams.
Just in case there are any Hurricanes' fans finding themselves reading this, or just in case you're an Oilers fan who is still curious about Lowe, he sees himself as "A stay at home defenseman. I'm not a afraid to jump up into the rush. I make a good first pass and just play a simple game." The ISS calls Lowe a rough and tumble defenseman, does he think that that is an accurate account? "It's something that I take pride in, not being easy to play against. I like being tough to play against; someone that they don't want to go in a corner with. As I get bigger, as I get stronger I think that I'll start to gain that reputation. It's something I take pride in, in my game. I'm not dirty by any means, but I like to be tough to play against."
"My favourite play is Shea Weber from Nashville, but I like to pattern my game after maybe Dennis Seidenberg or maybe Edler, or Bieksa, you know, just watching them in the playoffs I thought that's a player that I could see myself being like."
Keegan Lowe may not be on the road to being an Oiler now, and he may never. But he does have Oil in his blood, this is a defenseman that I will enjoy following, no matter where his path takes him.