Flames prospect Keegan Kanzig brings brawn and brains to the table

 

It’s easy to focus on the Victoria Royals’ defenceman’s impressive measurables, but he aims to show off his hockey IQ at Flames development camp

 
 
 
 
Keegan Kanzig was drafted by the Flames in the third round of last month’s NHL Entry Draft.
 

Keegan Kanzig was drafted by the Flames in the third round of last month’s NHL Entry Draft.

Photograph by: Jon Howe

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This is one large teenager. You simply cannot miss him.

A whisker under six foot six in bare feet (size 14), he weighs 240 pounds. Meaning his dimensions are the natural starting point for any conversation.“When people see me, they see my size,” said Keegan Kanzig, 18. “But I do think I’m a smart player. But people don’t think or talk about it much because they’re too busy talking about how big I am. So people don’t notice (the hockey IQ).”

Which is exactly what Tod Button, Calgary Flames director of amateur scouting, had emphasized after selecting Kanzig at the National Hockey League draft June 30.

“A huge defenceman,” Button said that night at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., “but the first thing we noticed about him? We thought he understood the game very well and that he had high character, high intangibles. Off the ice leadership. On the ice leadership. He’s a great teammate. For us, it was an area we talked about — getting rough and tumble on the back-end — but he’s got a good brain, too.”

In his second season with the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League, under the stewardship of skipper Dave Lowry, Kanzig registered seven assists and 15 fights.

Rated by Central Scouting as the 112th-best North American skater — after being slotted 194th at the mid-season grading — the Athabasca native had expected to be plucked in the fifth round, maybe even as early as the fourth.

Lo and behold, at 67th overall, the Flames call his name. The lad had not been on site, however, opting to hang out with friends and family at home on the big day.

“It was a bit of a surprise to me to go early in the third (round) — a good surprise, obviously,” Kanzig said Tuesday afternoon, taking a break from his drive to Calgary for the Flames’ development camp at WinSport’s Ice Complex. “It is a little boost of confidence. But other than that, I’m still working towards my goal of someday playing in the NHL. My work ethic hasn’t changed. It makes me realize that I’m not too, too far away.

“It’s a little more motivation. In that way, it’s kind of neat.” Kanzig’s game — given his stature and statistics — is basically what you’d expect.

“I’m a defensive defenceman,” he said. “I’m a big guy, so I use my size to my advantage. I play physical. A team player. Smart defensively. I’m there to protect teammates and stand up for them. If it needs to be done, I’ll do it. But I don’t think fighting is going to be my only role. I’m not going to be out there just to drop the mitts. I think I’ll be used as a shut-down player.”

As a role model, Kanzig likes Matt Greene, a 232-pound piece of sandpaper who’s made a good living in the NHL. He’s currently employed by the Los Angeles Kings.

“Similar style,” said Kanzig. “A strong, defensive, shut-down player.”

But first things first.

He needs to get his feet wet at the Flames’ summer camp this week. Kanzig knows well another invitee — Austin Carroll, another player from Victoria — but beyond that?

“I expect a high (level) of compete, but, obviously, I’ll be skating with top athletes and players,” he said. “I’m more excited than nervous, but a little nervous as well. Some of the guys at camp have played in the (NHL) before. It’ll be interesting and exciting to be on the same ice as them. A good learning experience as well — it’ll force me to step my game up.

“I’m pretty pumped about the opportunity to show my stuff.”

scruickshank@calgaryherald.com

 
 
 
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Keegan Kanzig was drafted by the Flames in the third round of last month’s NHL Entry Draft.
 

Keegan Kanzig was drafted by the Flames in the third round of last month’s NHL Entry Draft.

Photograph by: Jon Howe

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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