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Get to know Keegan Kolesar
Date of Birth: 4/8/1997
Place of Birth: Winnipeg, MB, CAN
Ht: 6’2″ Wt: 216 lbs
Position: Right Wing
Team: Seattle Thunderbirds
Every coach loves having a guy like Keegan Kolesar on his team, and I’m sure former Avalanche winger and current head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds, Steve Konowalchuk, is no different.
Kolesar isn’t flashy — he’s not the elaborate frosting on the cake, but the cake itself… I take that back, he’s the meat and potatoes of the meal before the cake. His hard nosed determination to have an impact while on the ice, work ethic, versatility, and a dash of scoring prowess have him firmly entrenched in the NHL Draft radar, despite being overlooked all of last year.
The rugged winger racked up 19 goals and 38 points in 64 games with the WHL’s Thunderbirds this season, after a modest eight point season in his rookie year. According to this interview from earlier in the season, it seems that confidence was the main factor in his improvement, along with improved skating and physique.
Central Scouting has tagged Kolesar as the 65th best North American Skater, while Future Considerations rated him 91st overall on their recent draft board.
What Scouts See
A gritty two-way winger with the hard-nosedness and work ethic to frustrate opponents every time he is on the ice. Possesses good awareness in all three zones and knows how to backcheck hard; however, this doesn’t take away from his offensive ability, as he has shown flashes of great offensive playmaking and finishing ability. All-in-all, a physical two-way winger that consistently plays to his strengths and is productive with his ice time.
What BSN Avalanche Sees
Kolesar isn’t a guy who catches your attention initially, but like a fine wine, you really come to appreciate the little details that set him apart from his peers. Versatility is Kolesar’s calling card, which is a dangerous asset, because he has shown a willingness to put forth effort and attention to detail no matter what task he is assigned.
While primarily playing a scoring line role in Seattle, Kolesar held his own. He found chemistry playing with fellow draft eligible standouts Matthew Barzal and Ryan Gropp among others, and took pride in doing a lot of the dirty work no matter which line he played on. An obvious strength of Kolesar is his board play, where winning battles is more of a foregone conclusion than tossup with him. His dad played professional football, and that lineage shows in his son’s bruising style of play.
Kolesar’s offensive skills aren’t elite by any means, but he has soft hands and a good enough hockey IQ to be a threat to put up points when on the ice. At the NHL level, the majority of his goals will likely be of the “ugly” variety — a product of hard work and willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice.
Coaches and scouts have praised Kolesar for improving his skating over the past year, and that improvement will need to continue for Kolesar to have success at the next level. Even at the WHL level, he can appear sluggish on the ice, and his lack of agility is exposed in certain situations.
The enforcer is a dying breed in the NHL, but Kolesar looks to be a bit of a new-age enforcer — a guy who can play the game at a high level, but is willing to drop the gloves if necessary. I would classify Kolesar as more of a capable power forward than a fighter though. He’s a hockey player who happens to fight, not a fighter who happens to play hockey.
My overall impressions of Kolesar are very good. He plays hard, finishes his checks, contributed on the power play and penalty kill for the T-birds, and brought a lot of energy and passion to the ice.
Anytime you have a player in junior hockey who regularly drops the gloves, the available highlights are usually dominated by fisticuffs.
Despite playing large chunks of this past season on Seattle’s top line, Kolesar projects as a third or fourth line player in the NHL. His defensive abilities, strong board play, and ability to set a physical tone should make him an asset for an NHL team in the future.
While he has some offensive ability, it doesn’t appear elite enough to expect him to develop into a top-six power forward. That said, he may provide valuable depth scoring from the bottom lines.
Expected Draft Position
Kolesar’s ratings indicate that we should expect him to come off the board in the middle rounds, either the third or fourth round. Teams will likely be attracted to players with higher upside in the earlier rounds, but Kolesar’s versatility and NHL projectable style will help his draft stock.
How Would Kolesar Fit in the Avalanche Organization
The Avalanche want to get bigger and be tough to play against, and Kolesar is a poster-boy for these two qualities. He would certainly be a welcome addition to the prospect pool, and has good value as a third or fourth round pick in my eyes.
I like that Kolesar is willing to stand up for his teammates, but brings more to the table than just the ability to throw a punch. His versatility and ability to do a little bit of everything make him a safer bet to reach the NHL than many drafted around him in my opinion.
Cody McLeod has three more years left on his contract, and Kolesar could be a nice replacement and even a sizable upgrade when McLeod comes off the books. As I said at the beginning of this profile, Kolesar is the type of player coaches love. He has the vibe of a player that Patrick Roy will really like on draft day.