Ottawa 67’s center Austen Keating has flown under the radar for most of the 2016-17, appearing in very few lists for the upcoming draft. Digging into both statistics and scouting reports however, there doesn’t seem to be many well founded reasons for that to be the case. Between cohort data, adjusted scoring, on-ice statistics and shot location metrics, all signs are pointing towards Keating deserving more attention than he’s been getting.
Those are some of the reasons why we’ve ranked Keating at the back end of the second round. He checks in at #61 on our Top 100 list of 2017 draft eligible prospects.
- Age: 18 – March 7th, 1999
- Birthplace: Guelph, ON, CAN
- Frame: 6’0″, 170 lbs
- Position: Center
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: Ottawa 67’s
- Accomplishments/Awards: U17 WHC Gold Medal (15/16)
Cohort Based (pGPS)
Keating netted a large number of statistical comparables, with roughly a quarter of them going on to play at least 200 NHL games. After weighting for similarity, pGPS has given Keating a 27.5% chance of NHL success, and a near-half point per game expected scoring rate in the NHL. Double digits in Expected Value are usually a positive sign, and Keating just makes the cut. Some players with high degrees of similarity include Tom Pyatt, Michael Peca, Brad Richardson and Nick Spaling.
(Edit: there was a sentence here in which I’d confused Alex Burmistov for Andre Burakovsky, which brought me great shame and has been removed.)
An energy player with a finishing touch around the net…a pass-first player who always has his head up and surveys the ice well to create for his linemates…has the offensive instincts and skating ability to blossom into a point producing machine… displays an unorthodox, choppy stride, but still a powerful skating who can create separation from defenders and works tirelessly to get in on loose pucks and win battles or provide support defensively…handles the puck extremely well…goes to the net and is a presence who has the ability to slide out into the slot to receive a pass and use a quick one-touch release to surprise goalies…does an outstanding job winning puck battles without being overly physical as he uses body positioning and an active, strong stick to lift pucks off players in traffic and make quick passes to teammates…has the developing skills to be projected as a top six offensive contributor at the next level.
The stats are pretty impressive for a player who seemed to fly under the pre-draft radar for most of the season. Keating picked up 32 primary points during 5v5, which is more than Isaac Ratcliffe, Ivan Lodnia, Alex Formenton, Nate Schnarr, and he more than doubled what teammate Sasha Chmelevski did at even strength. He isn’t the most graceful of skaters, but watching him wear opponents down and making neat plays off an aggressive forecheck almost makes up for it. Keating is a smart player with the puck and shows patience on his zone entries, keeping his head up and timing his passes almost to perfection.
When I was working on SEAL adjusted scoring earlier in the calendar year, Austen Keating was one of the names that stood out. Despite not being ranked by most services (and not being in the top two rounds of the services that did list him), Keating’s name showed up in a range populated by better known names. With a March birthday, he’s not overly young for his draft class, but his 44 points at 5-on-5 are close to the totals accumulated by Robert Thomas, Jason Robertson and Owen Tippett. What Keating lacks is gaudy power play totals, but those tend to be more transient than predictive.
Even so, Keating is nearly a point per game player, in a draft class that has seen far less productive players ranked higher. At 6-feet, he doesn’t have the height disadvantage that often causes productive players to tumble, nor do his scouting reports turn up any glaring character deficits or obvious red flags with his abilities. In fact, by all accounts, speed and intelligence are strengths of his, and he likes to go to the net and clean up plays for easy goal. All of this points to a player who heretofore has been undervalued, and should probably go higher in the draft than previously thought.
Keating has separation speed, and if there’s a gripe to be had with him, it might be that he has a tendency to go looking for breakaways rather than focus on maintaining structure in the defensive zone, though this issue seemed to diminish over the course of the season. It also didn’t seem to cause too many problems for his team, as the 67’s still scored more goals with him on the ice at 5-on -5 than they allowed (50.8%), which is even more impressive considering that the 67’s as a team were well in the red at 5-on-5 (46.1%), lending credence to the notion that Keating was more of a benefit to his team than a detriment.
The Guelph, Ontario product’s infatuation with getting to the dangerous areas of the ice also shows up in the data. His 1.49 shot per game are decent, if not special (ranking 32nd among first time eligible OHL players), but a whopping 27% of them came within the high danger zone (the inner home plate area between the dots and below the hashmarks), which was the third best rate in the entire OHL. That gave him the 19th best high danger shots per game in the league, right behind Ivan Lodnia and Gabriel Vilardi, and ahead of top 60 picks from last year’s draft like Nathan Bastian, Boris Katchouk and Adam Mascherin.
Though Keating’s 17% 5-on-5 shooting percentage could be perceived as inflated and in line for a regression, his high danger shooting percentage was actually below average for that area of the ice, as the overall percentage was instead buoyed by a 22% medium danger shooting percentage. Normalizing both might take away a couple of goals overall, but it wouldn’t put a great dent in his totals.
Any perceived problems with Keating – namely consistency and defensive commitment, from what I can gather – are the types of issues that can usually be coached out of a player, if the problem isn’t simply being misunderstood. Blowing the zone early, for instance, is a cardinal sin structured hockey, but if it leads to more goals for than allowed, then the problem is likely being overblown. Still, Keating might not have the skill level to get away with it at higher levels, and so he will need to know when it is appropriate and when it isn’t, if he hasn’t figured this out on his own already. As with so many prospects, it is the team’s responsibility during the draft process to assess whether he is coachable and has a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. The skill and intelligence are already there.