Keenan Spillum grew up playing youth hockey in Arizona. He spent his junior hockey career in the NAHL, mostly playing for the Corpus Christi IceRays but was recently traded to the Aberdeen Wings. Next season, the ’97 will skate for Colorado College.
Neutral Zone chatted with Spillum about his youth hockey career, his recruiting process and more.
Neutral Zone: How and when did you start playing hockey?
Keenan Spillum: At a very early age, my Dad took me ice skating, and from there I fell in love with the game of hockey. I enjoyed watching hockey as well as playing the game.
NZ: What’s your earliest memory from playing hockey?
KS: The earliest memory I have from playing hockey comes when I first started playing hockey at the age of four or five. I remember playing one of my first hockey games and my grandpa was running the clock and scoreboard while my dad was the coach.
NZ: What was your youth hockey experience like growing up in Arizona?
KS: Growing up in Arizona, youth hockey was actually a great experience for me. I played with many highly skilled players and made several life-long friends. My coaches were awesome, teaching me to work hard.
NZ: How have you seen the youth hockey atmosphere change in Arizona while you were growing up?
KS: Youth hockey in the desert has grown tremendously over the last few years.
NZ: How has hockey there grown as a whole?
KS: Hockey as a whole in Arizona has grown a lot. Having the Arizona Coyotes in town is a large part of the growth in Arizona youth hockey. Also, there are several guys from Arizona having great success, which now has more kids playing and enjoying the game of hockey in the desert.
NZ: How did you end up in the NAHL?
KS: As a 17-year-old, I made the team of the Corpus Christi IceRays as an undrafted, free agent. Then a year and half later, I was traded to the Aberdeen Wings.
NZ: How has playing there helped you develop?
KS: When I played in Corpus Christi I learned how to become a successful junior hockey player both on and off the ice, while developing and growing my game. Then, when I was traded to the Aberdeen Wings I learned what it took to be a pro and show up to the rink ready to work each and everyday.
NZ: Take us through the NCAA recruitment process. What other schools were you talking to and where did you visit?
KS: Several Division 1 schools had interest in me. I visited schools out east as well as the Midwest. I took a visit to Niagara University this summer and then I was also talking to Providence and RPI along with Colorado College.
NZ: What made you decide to commit to Colorado College? What went into that decision for you and your family to know it was the right place?
KS: Colorado College has a great hockey program and coaching staff, which made for a great fit for me. The location and conference were great added bonuses for me. I am excited to be a part of an exceptional hockey program.
NZ: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while playing hockey?
KS: The strangest thing that I’ve seen while playing hockey was back when I was playing in the Peewee International Tournament in Quebec. My team drew a penalty and we pulled our goalie, and then one of our forwards was getting tripped and threw the puck back in an attempt to pass to one of our defensemen. Instead of the puck landing on the tape of one of our defensemen, the puck went to the back our own net, and we scored on ourselves.
NZ: What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you in hockey?
KS: The best piece of advice anyone has given me in hockey is to never take anything for granted and to get better each day.
NZ: What are your best on-ice skills?
KS: I am a solid defenseman with great overall skills, my hockey sense and knowledge of the game, decision making, poise and size all being my strongest assets. Being 6-foot-3, I am physical; I have solid vision, good puck movement along with playmaking abilities. I have a strong commitment to the game and am a team player on and off the ice.
NZ: What aspect of your game are you working on improving the most?
KS: It is my goal to work hard to continue to improve my hockey skills and speed.
NZ: Is there a professional player you model your game after?
KS: A professional player that I model my game is Marc-Edouard Vlasic. My game is very similar to him in that we aren’t flashy, but we are dominant. We are both guys that shut down the opponents’ top lines and take care of our defensive zone first before then hurting opponents in the offensive zone.
NZ: Who’s been the biggest influence in your hockey career?
KS: The biggest influence in my hockey career has to be my youth coach growing up, Ron Filion. He taught me how to perfect my strengths and set the foundation that has allowed me to defend the elite players at a very high level. I owe a lot of my success in my career and where I am today to Ron Filion.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?
KS: The toughest challenge I’ve faced in hockey was the playing in the playoffs and overcoming being a No. 4 seed, and winning the Central Division title to get to the Robertson Cup semifinals.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in life?
KS: The toughest challenge I have faced in life was probably moving away from home my senior year of high school. I was challenged with moving to a new state, living with a new family, practicing and playing with a new team and keeping up with my schoolwork. However, I feel my strong work ethic, organizational skills, time management, and commitment to my academic and athletic goals helped me during this challenging time in my life.