The 10th overall selection in the 2017 OHL Priority Draft was given an uphill course to traverse. Landing in Flint is tantamount to being drafted the Ottawa Senators in the early 1990’s – there wasn’t much to work with. Despite some tumultuous circumstances both on and off the ice, the power forward did his part for the Firebirds. His brand of powerful, north-south hockey coupled with a heavy release earned him 30 goals and 59 points in 68 games – darn impressive coming out of a club that earned just 16 wins all season.
The question will be whether his skills stood out on an island of misfit toys, or if he has the footspeed and puck skills needed to thrive in an offensive role as a professional.
- Age/Birthdate: 18 / April 20, 2001
- Birthplace: Whitby, ON, CAN
- Frame: 6 -foot-2 / 212 lbs
- Position: LW
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Flint Firebirds (OHL)
- GTBHL Champion
- OHF Bantam AAA Champion
- OHL Cup All-Star Team
2018-19 Stat Rundown
|GP||G||A||P||INV%||5v5 Pr INV%||5v5 ePr60||SEAL||Sh/GP||Sh%||5v5 eTOI||GF%||GF%rel||GD60 rel||XLS%||Top XLS%||XPR|
Let’s begin with the good. The 6-2 winger brings a lot of desirable attributes to the table each night. The most glaring of which is his work ethic. Rarely does he take a shift off, and relies on his gritty style to disrupt the opposition. While lacking separation speed, he has the wheels to get in on the forecheck and cause havoc. His physicality and puck protection skills make him a load to hand in the tough areas of the ice. They also would indicate they he is likely destined for a bottom-six role in the NHL.
Here’s a look at him using his reach to exploit the defensive schemes and find a wraparound opportunity. Notice how he uses the 10-2 edges to originally curl around the defender. He then employs the sweeping U-curve to complete the wrap. His head remains up and his long reach allows him to stuff it inside the post before the netminder or weak side defender can intercept.
The athletic forward is also deft at using the puck-protection and wide drives to set up his teammates – something he did a very efficient rate in 2018-19. In the clip below, he gets up in the air to knock the pass down to himself, uses his speed to go wide on the backhand before sliding it into the home plate area for an eventual goal.
While his strength and work ethic is what will likely propel him to a professional career, it’s his ability to generate offense at even-strength – especially converting goals himself, that is his most noteworthy skill.
Of his 30 tallies, 20 of them came from within the hash marks. As mentioned, he thrives down low with his power game. He has the ability to get set and release quickly and accurately. He has the ability to lean into his one-timer and produce excellent velocity to go along with his accuracy.
His conversion skills are not isolated to the cycle game. He enjoys pushing down the wing with speed and either rifling a shot into the upper portion of the net or circling wide to look for another option. His head is up and he doesn’t need much wind-up to unearth his shot.
Notice in that last clip that he has one hand on the stick and he pushes down the left side of the rink. His head is up as he assesses the play. He quickly grabs with his bottom hand and unleashes a heavy and accurate shot. That bottom hand lands in something of a neutral position on the shaft. That offers the netminder little in the way of information. If anything, with his hand position, is more likely that he would slide the puck across to his mate, or drop it back to the high middle man then to shoot it himself. Because he can generate so much strength from the neutral stick grip – all with the minimal pullback, the netminder is frozen and the puck is by his ear in a flash.
Digging deeper into the numbers, Keppen wasn’t just a passenger at even-strength, he managed to be one of the most effective first-time draft-eligible players in producing primary points. His 18 even-strength goals were third for that group. His 18 primary, even-strength assists finished second, and his overall even-strength points landed him fourth. His even-strength shot generation was equally impressive landing second behind only Arthur Kaliyev.
While it is a down year in the OHL for draft-eligibles, he managed to stand out in a very difficult situation.
Looking at the pGPS model, Keppen’s size, deployment, metrics and historical comparables spit out a likelihood of becoming an NHL player of 26.6%. That’s a healthy number for a player who is very likely to be around in the third round or later. His probability of landing as a top-six winger dips significantly to 6.7%. However, as outlined above, you’re looking at him as a potential power forward who can contribute in an energy role and potentially add some offense with his great release. You’re hopeful for a top-six contributor, but expecting an energy player.
The sheer amount of historically comparable players is massive. It’s difficult to wade through his bubble chart and come to some conclusion on the type of prospect you’re hoping to obtain. When going through the physical chart of comparable players. A few successful ones with the highest similarities are Brandon Saad, Brett Ritchie, and Rickard Rakell. Those three represent three potential scenarios – Rakell and Saad being the very high-end outputs, while Ritchie seems like the more reasonable hope for selecting clubs. There is a bevy of comparable players who failed to make the NHL but let’s just stay positive. It’s a sunny day and the draft is mere hours away.
As we discussed earlier, Keppen was a premier driver of points amongst draft-eligible skaters and so it’s no surprise that his eP60 WOWY would be positive. The left side of the ledger indicates that Keppen played marginally better with his most common linemates. The right side of the ledger indicates that his most-common linemates played significantly better with him. He positively impacted those guys. And if you’re wondering who those players are, you’re not alone. This was a further reminder that he was playing with a less-than-stellar squad of talent.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to look at the counting stats, the less than explosive speed, and the difficult situation that he’ll be returning to next season and walk away with a soft feeling towards Keppen. But diving deeper into the metrics, taking the entire situation into consideration and projecting the type of asset you may be selecting and having hope for a legitimate, albeit bottom-six, NHL forward. You could do a lot worse in the mid-rounds.
Rolling Season Data
Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and ontariohockeyleague.com
Some clips were pulled from videos from prospectshifts.com. Check out Ethan Keppen’s page here (paywall). Other clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.
Managing Editor, Senior Scout and Canucks’ Writer at DobberProspects. Associate Editor at DobberHockey, Co-Host of Prospect Central on Sportsnet650, and contributor at NextGen Hockey.
Most importantly, I’m a husband, father, terrible (but dedicated) golfer, and curly-haired man of the people.