Roland McKeown easily could have been selected with the 1st overall pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection if it had not been for a player named Connor McDavid. That said, the Kingston Frontenacs were ecstatic to take Roland with the 2nd overall pick and it was obvious early on that he would be a cornerstone piece for the franchise throughout his junior career.
McKeown saw big minutes as an OHL rookie on a rebuilding Frontenacs team. The big minutes meant big numbers for a rookie defenseman in the OHL. He scored 7 goals and 22 assists as a 16-year old during the 2012-13 season. McKeown’s sophomore season was his best season statistically. He set OHL career highs in goals (11), points (43) and plus/minus (+38). That led to the LA Kings selecting him with their 2nd round pick, 50th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
When he returned to Kingston the following season he inherited the captaincy from the departing Mike Moffat. As the captain, McKeown kept putting up points while playing nearly 30 minutes a game. He not only added valuable points but was the team’s top shut down defenseman. He played in all situations and was a true team leader.
On February 25, 2015 the LA Kings traded Roland McKeown’s rights, along with a first round pick, to the Carolina Hurricanes for Andrej Sekera. The Hurricanes signed McKeown to an entry level contract on April 1, 2015 and sent him to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL following the OHL season. He played 4 games and recorded his first professional point on April 12 against the Rockford IceHogs.
He was returned by the Hurricanes to the OHL for one more season in 2015-16. With McKeown as a captain and some mid-season trades the Frontenacs had their best regular season in the franchise’s history. They set franchise records in wins (46), points (97) and fewest goals against (189). The team also won its first playoff series in 18 years when they defeated Oshawa 4-1 in the first round. Although the team wasn’t able to capture the championship, they did help re-ignite the passion for playoff hockey in Kingston and McKeown’s leadership had a lot to do with that.
He joined the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL full time for the 2016-17 season. He scored his first professional goal on November 27th against the Iowa Wild. Roland added 10 assists in his first full season as a pro.
His second pro season was a huge improvement. He scored 7 goals and 16 assists while in the AHL, but he saw his first ice time in the NHL with the Hurricanes. His first game was on November 4th against the Arizona Coyotes. In his second game he recorded 2 assists against the Florida Panthers to earn his first 2 NHL points. He would play 10 games in total for Carolina throughout the 17-18 season earning 3 assists.
He will enter the final year of his entry-level contract next season with the hopes of cracking the Carolina Hurricanes line-up full time out of training camp.
Roland McKeown was, without question, one of the best defenseman the Kingston franchise has ever seen. The way he thought the game and executed his game plan was something you don’t often see from a junior aged hockey player. There was no question that Roland McKeown had the ability to play at the next level, and fans in Kingston were lucky enough to experience his skill every game night over a four season stretch.