GREENBURGH, N.Y. — A year ago, a teenager named Joey Keane made an impression in his first pro training camp when he knocked the wind out of the Rangers’ top player, Mika Zibanejad, in a one-on-one drill. Zibanejad was OK, and Keane survived the Rangers’ first cuts and got to play in a preseason game before being returned to his junior team in Barrie, Ontario.
Now 20, Keane is still drawing positive attention to himself. On Monday, the 6-foot, 187-pound defenseman from Chicago scored a goal in the Rangers’ first training camp scrimmage.
“It was nice,’’ he said of the only goal his team scored in a 4-1 loss. “I got up [on the rush], got a pass right in the slot. I was [at point-blank range], so I just had to put her in.’’
“Joey’s got a lot of great qualities about him,’’ coach David Quinn said. “I love his skating. He’s strong. I think, as you get older, as a defenseman, a lot of guys are gifted offensively, and they’re offensive defensemen. I think he’s still finding his way as to who he’s going to be at our level. He’s certainly a great prospect for us. There’s a lot of things to like about Joey.’’
One of two third round draft picks by the Rangers in 2018, Keane had eight goals and 31 assists in a combined 66 games for Barrie and the London Knights of the OHL last season in his final year of junior hockey.
The righthanded-shooting defenseman normally would have been ticketed for the Hartford farm team this season, but with restricted free agent Tony DeAngelo unsigned and not in camp, there is ice time and opportunity for other players to show the coaches what they can do. Quinn said “there’s certainly a chance’’ for him to impress with DeAngelo out.
“I don’t read into it too much,’’ Keane said when asked if DeAngelo’s absence works in his favor. “That’s the coaches’ decisions. I’m just going to try to get better every day and compete every day. So that’s my goal.’’
Keane, who had 12 goals and 44 points for Barrie in his draft year, said he doesn’t consider himself an offensive defenseman.
“I would say I’m a skating defenseman,’’ he said. “I move the puck up. I do like to get in the offense. But I wouldn’t say I’m like a Drew Doughty or someone who’s trying to dangle all the time.’’
Keane spent most of the summer in Connecticut and trained with Ben Prentiss, who works with many of the Rangers to get them into top shape. Keane did a lot of work in the weight room and worked on his skating speed.
“That was unbelievable,’’ he said. “A great opportunity to be able to be around the pro guys again and just kind of see how that works. And yeah, my goal is to get stronger. And that’s what the Rangers told me I had to do. And I did get stronger.’’
Notes & quotes: The Rangers made their first cuts of camp, assigning goalies Francois Brassard and Tom McCollum and forwards Ryan Gropp, Ville Meskanen and Ty Ronning to Hartford and returning defensemen Nico Gross and Hunter Skinner to their junior teams. The cuts leave the Rangers with 48 players . . . Boo Nieves (two), Phillip DiGiuseppe and Tarmo Reunanen scored for Team Leetch, which beat Team Graves. Quinn singled out Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, Nieves and Filip Chytil when asked who stood out. Quinn said defensemen Sean Day and Yegor Rykov, who have not participated in camp because of injury, are getting closer to returning.