While every Los Angeles Kings fan is eagerly awaiting the raising of their team's championship banner followed immediately by the defense of said championship, there is something else to look forward if you are a fan of the silver-and-black.
With training camp just weeks away, fans - and, of course, the Kings themselves - will be looking at their future of their franchise, especially given their great track record at recent drafts, in particular the most recent.
At the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia this past June, the Los Angeles Kings made some wise choices. One, which was popular or unpopular depending on who you ask, was trading bona fide prospect Linden Vey to, of all teams, the Vancouver Canucks for the 50th-overall pick in said draft. With that pick, the Kings selected defenseman Roland McKeown.
A native of Listowel, Ontario, Roland McKeown was considered one of the best two-way defenseman available entering the draft - and the Kings had enough faith in the blueliner to take him. But while he is just 18, it is very unlikely that McKeown will be suiting up for the big club this season. With just Willie Mitchell gone from last year's defensive unit, the Kings have high hopes in Brayden McNabb, who will most likely be taking Mitchell's spot. Matt Greene, fresh off signing a four-year extension with Los Angeles, has had injury trouble in recent years and if that continues, maybe - just maybe - McKeown will have a chance to don the silver-and-black in 2014-15. But don't count on it.
But saying is by no means detrimental to McKeown's abilities, his playing style or the defenseman personally. If there's one thing that GM Dean Lombardi and his staff have been notorious for, it is patiently developing their talent. While Drew Doughty and Kyle Clifford were each playing for the Kings quickly after being drafted, those are the rare exceptions.
There may be a chance that Roland McKeown spends time in Manchester this season but that won't be expected until late in the year as the 6' 1, 186-pounder's destination this coming season will be Kingston where he will be expected to return to the OHL's Frontenacs, where he spent the last two seasons. After all, there are some kinks in the defenseman's game that needs work. Heck, at 18, who doesn't need improvement? For instance, in 2012-13 - his rookie year with the Frontenacs - McKeown registered a less-than-stellar -24 rating. But he redeemed himself with a vengeance the following season with a rating of +38. That's an improvement of 62 points - something fans and analysts alike can salivate over.
With experience as a leader captaining the minor midget Toronto Marlboros in 2011-12 to helping win gold for his native Canada at last year's World Under-18 and the Ivan Hlinka tournament to bettering his point total by 14 (in addition to the aforementioned plus/minus rise), Roland McKeown is certainly be a special piece to the Los Angeles KIngs' bright future. Hey, if Dean Lombardi can risk trading a player of Linden Vey's potential to a heated division rival like the Canucks in order to draft McKeown, then the defenseman must have plenty of things right about his game.
I have been watching video of Roland McKeown since the Kings drafted him nearly two months ago and I cannot conceal my excitement. The blueliner seems to have everything working in his favour and can easily become a solid force with any defensive unit in hockey, especially with one as deep as Los Angeles's.
If he cracks the Kings squad this year, wonderful. But if not, that's okay, too. Patience is a virtue that Los Angeles Kings fans have adapted to quite smoothly since Dean Lombardi took over in the front office. With the development of Alec Martinez, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, it was definitely worth the wait. With Roland McKeown, it shouldn't - nay, won't be - any different.