Weight: 214 pounds
Date of birth: March 20, 2001
Hometown: Whitby, Ontario
Position: Left Wing
OHL Draft: Round 1, 10th overall, 2017 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting Rankings: Preseason, November: C Prospect, Mid-term 110th North America
By now, any follower of the Ontario Hockey League is aware of the turmoil that has surrounded the Flint Firebirds over the past couple of seasons. But the future in Flint is looking brighter and the fact that they have 4 players that are likely to be selected at the 2019 National Hockey League Draft in June is a testament to the work the front office has done. The list includes Vladislav Kolyachonok, Eric Uba, Luke Cavallin and the subject of today’s profile, Ethan Keppen.
The Native of Whitby Ontario played his minor midget AAA with the Toronto Nationals during the 2016-2017 season where he amassed 14 goals and 21 assists in 33 games. But it was at the Nationals’ run at the OHL Cup where Keppen had his coming out party. He led the Nationals in scoring and finished second in the tournament on 3 goals and 8 helpers in 8 games.
The scouting report from OHL Central Scouting read as follows:
Ethan is a prototypical power forward. He has very good size with a powerful stride that allows him to reach top speed quickly. He goes up and down his wing crashing and banging into everything. Ethan creates room for his linemates and goes to the net hard for rebounds and loose pucks. He is a complete player that takes care of his own end and is relied on in all key situations. There isn’t a hit that he turns away from. He competes hard for loose pucks and forechecks hard.
Keppen broke onto the OHL scene last season with the Firebirds and scored 10 goals while adding 8 assists in 63 contests. Again, if you are aware of what the situation in Flint has been like, it wasn’t an ideal situation. But 2018-2019 has been a different story.
To date, Keppen has 24 goals and 23 assists in 55 games. He sits second on the team in goals, powerplay goals, assists, third in points and leads the team in shots on goal.
Since the calendar flipped to 2001 however, few players in the OHL have been racking up points at the pace Keppen has. Through 17 games, Keppen has points in 16, goals in 12 and has totaled 14 goals and 8 assists in those contests while firing 71 shots on goal, good for a 19.7 shooting percentage. That’s well above his season average 14.5 shooting percentage. He holds the longest point streak among draft eligible players at 10 games and the longest and active goal-scoring streak among draft eligible players at 5 games.
There’s not much to add to OHL Central Scouting’s description of Keppen except to give you a little more detail.
Keppen is a true power forward that won’t beat defenders with finesse, but rather to blow through them at any given opportunity. He’s as strong as an ox already and is just going to get stronger as he physically matures. His style alone opens up space for himself and his teammates. He’s willing to drive to the goal with and without the puck. He is extremely good on the forecheck and rarely loses a puck battle. When combined with his relentless work ethic, he is quite simply a physical beast.
His skating stride is long and powerful and he does cover a lot of ice with those long strides. His speed is okay, but I wonder just how fast he could be if he worked on his technique. Keppen more often then not stands upright when he reaches top speed. But with the quality of skating coaches available to players these days, I have no worries that the kinks will get worked out and that coaches will find the technique that works best for him.
First and foremost, Keppen is considered a goal scorer. But I think his playmaking abilities are underrated. Of his 23 assists to date this season, 18 of them are primary assists, third only to Arthur Kaliyev (20) and Philip Tomasino (21) and tied with Ryan Suzuki among draft eligible players. His primary assists to assists (78.2%) is second among all players next to fellow draft eligible Connor McMichael (82.7%).
Keppen won’t beat a goaltender with a deceptively quick release on his shot. Instead, it’s hard, heavy and deadly accurate and he can quite simply overpower a netminder. Hard to predict how that will translate to the next level, but it’s also hard to predict just how much heavier that shot will become when he matures physically.
Not easy to predict where Keppen will end up going at the 2019 Draft. When you consider Europeans and goaltenders, NHL Central Scouting has him as a late third to early fourth in their rankings. Today, I’d say he has to get consideration as an early third rounder.