Jackson Keane has put his dual citizenship in Canada and the United States to use as a hockey player.
Keane utilized his Canadian citizenship by playing at home in Winnipeg for much of his teen years. He especially shined at the 2015 CJHL Prospects Game last year and earned MVP honors as a member of Team West.
A year later, he is taking part in the 2016 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Keane, a left-shooting center, decided his best hockey path was returning to the United States, where he was born and lived earlier in his life, to play for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.
“I always wanted to play here,” said the 18-year-old Keane following his team’s morning skate for the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Ralston, Nebraska on Tuesday. “I think there was a time major junior was a thought. Being from Canada, that’s obviously what everyone likes to do.
“I think coming to Sioux City was best for my development. It was a little bit of an eye-opener for me. Winnipeg is a great place to play and the MJ is a great league, but I just think the next step and best thing for me is playing with the best players and developing every day.”
Keane was helped in that decision by his father, Mike Keane, a former NHL player. Mike played 1,161 NHL games in his career.
Keane knew it was best to take his father’s advice.
“He knows the game, and he knows the right route,” Keane said. “I think major junior was something I always wanted to do, and he kind of made me sit back and look at I’m 5-9, 160 pounds. Especially when I was 15, you have to look at the big picture. I think for myself that was a real eye-opener for me. I think his influence on me was go out, work hard every day and good things will come.”
The work ethic aspect is something Keane has especially been focused on in recent years. He understands that most opponents will have a size advantage on him. He can’t control that, but he can control how hard he works.
Keane loves to watch how other smaller players succeed at the higher levels. He notices what they do and tries to emulate them.
“I think watching guys like Johnny Gaudreau play in the league, even a guy I get to watch a lot, Bryan Little in Winnipeg, he’s a smaller guy, those guys might be a little bit more skilled than other guys, but they have to work double as hard as maybe a guy who is 6-2,” Keane said. “They have to defy the skeptics.
“I think for me that’s something I’ve been looking on. You have to work hard every day. You almost have to outwork every single player. Being a smaller guy, that’s just kind of the way it is. It’s real nice to see guys like Johnny Gaudreau, those kind of guys being in the NHL and being successful. Obviously, I just have to work hard and keep doing what I’m doing.”
Keane put up 20 goals and 41 assists in 50 games for the Winnipeg Blues in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League last season. He has found the USHL to be a deeper league and has been adjusting his game to it. He has six goals and four assists through 30 games this season.
Keane will continue his hockey path in the United States and is committed to the University of North Dakota. The school made a lot of sense to him for a number of reasons.
“Obviously North Dakota is North Dakota,” Keane sad. “It’s a dream school for a lot of people. … I want to play at the best place for the best players. I think to develop and be a great player you have to win. It’s tough to be on losing teams growing up and develop and that sort of thing. I think playing with the best players is going to be make me better. Obviously I want to win. That’s all they’re about.”
Winning was also what his dad was all about. Mike won a Stanley Cup with three different teams during the course of his career. He won with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and Dallas Stars in 1999.
The Stanley Cup rings are at the family’s home in Winnipeg, and Keane has occasionally given them a glance.
“Sometimes I bring it out for some of my buddies and stuff, show them a little bit,” Keane said. “They’re obviously not as cool as they are now. But it’s something that’s real special to my family. And seeing what he went through to get there is pretty crazy. Hopefully I can do that sometime, too.”
“It’s kind of changed a little bit,” Keane said. “Over the years growing up, I obviously was American, I guess. But I think playing hockey in Canada kind of changed my perspective on it. I think I’m more a Canadian-style hockey player, if that makes sense. It’s not a shot at America or anything like that. I think growing up that just the “Canadian Way” was the way I was taught to do stuff.
“But now being here, I’m kind of back on the American side of it. I’m a proud dual citizen. When I go home to Winnipeg, I’ll be Canadian, and I guess when I’m here I’m American.”
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