Ethan Keppen: Power Forward Ready to Make an Impact
At 20 years, six months and 19 days, Ethan Keppen represents the youngest North American born skater currently on the Abbotsford Canucks' roster. Keppen plays the game with a level of physicality that is likely to make him an immediate fan favourite this season in Abbotsford.
A star in juniors with the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League, Keppen plays with an edge that is likely to serve him well in the professional ranks. Across three seasons in Flint, Ethan produced 56 goals and 50 assists for a total of 106 points. Never afraid of confrontation on the ice, Keppen amassed 145 penalty minutes during his amateur career. Flint only registered a winning season in one of Keppen's three seasons and were abysmal as a team in most aspects of the game, so the big man's numbers are even more impressive given the lack of talent around him.
The Whitby, ON product makes good use of his large frame, playing a brash and unapologetically rough game. He can crush opponents' spirit with his ability to bury pucks in the back of the net and crush their bodies with huge open ice collisions. Considered a trustworthy defender and a gifted offensive weapon, it's not hard to understand why the Vancouver Canucks used a fourth-round pick on him during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
"I'm a power forward who plays a two-way game up and down the ice," said Keppen when asked to describe his game. "I like to score goals and create a lot of space for my line mates. We've got a lot of really good players here and I think we will play well together. I'm excited to start playing some games and working towards winning a championship here in Abbotsford."
The Vancouver Canucks saw his power forward potential and felt Keppen was ready to make the leap to the American Hockey League during the Covid shortened season in 2021. Ethan saw limited action down the stretch with the Utica Comets, registering one assist through seven games. The numbers might not jump off the page but the experience of being around professionals was invaluable to the young man.
"I got into a few games last year with Utica, but this will be my real rookie season," said Keppen on his previous AHL experience. "The biggest thing I noticed with Utica was the speed of the game. It's a much faster game in the pros, so I spent a lot of time working on my quickness this summer to get my speed up. I feel faster than I ever have right now and I think that will make me a better player this season."
Despite his youth, Keppen has been viewed as a team leader throughout his amateur career. He earned an assistant captain role during his final season with the Firebirds in 2019.20 and that is something he is very proud of. Team success has always been paramount for Keppen and he is hoping for big things out of the Abbotsford Canucks in their inaugural season.
"I want to be an impact player, and be in the lineup as much as possible helping this team win," said Keppen on his goals for this year. "I'm very excited to be part of the new franchise here in Abbotsford. Everyone I have met in town is excited to have hockey in here again, so that makes me even more excited to play in front of these fans."
As with most players his age, Keppen is a raw athlete who needs to refine his game before he earns a promotion to the next level. However, the young winger has impressed during training camp in Abbotsford, likely earning himself a prominent position on the Abby Canucks this season.
Possessing an intriguing combination of size, speed, skill and toughness; Keppen has drawn comparisons to Zach Kassian and Milan Lucic. His skillset could one day make him a great line mate of a skilled star like Elias Petterson, but in the meantime, Keppen's focus is on improving his game on the farm in Abbotsford.
"My focus is on playing for the Abbotsford Canucks," said Keppen on his future in the NHL. "I can only control what I can control, and my goal is to be the best player I can be for Abbotsford this season. We have a talented group and I think we are a playoff team without a doubt. We are going to come out flying every night and we plan on doing a lot of winning this year."
That is music to the ears of every Canucks' fan here in the Fraser Valley.
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