#2 - Clayton Keller - C/LW
Rank in last year’s 21 under 21? #3
Has He Played in the NHL?: Yes, 3 games at the end of the 2016-17 season
About Clayton Keller:
Coyotes fans were shocked when Arizona GM John Chayka selected Clayton Keller at 7th overall in the 2016 draft. Considering suspicions were that the organization would choose a defenseman (they later did at 16th, trading up to take Jakob Chychrun), Chayka’s decision of drafting a smaller forward, especially so high, was a bit of a shock. But what Coyotes fans are starting to learn is what a steal Keller was at 7th.
At 5’ 10" and 170 pounds, Keller is part of a growing group of smaller, highly skilled forwards that are starting to find their place in the NHL - with Tyler Ennis, Johnny Gaudreau, and Vincent Trocheck, just to name a few, leading the group.
A product of Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Keller joined the United States National Team Development Program in 2014, amassing 263 total points (98G, 165A) in 178 games over 2 seasons with the team. For three consecutive years, Keller represented Team USA at World Juniors, twice with the U18s and once with U20s, winning two golds and a bronze. He also had the opportunity to play in the IIHF Men’s World Cup this past summer and scored a hat trick against Denmark. To cap off his hockey resume, Keller had a solid 2016-17 season with Boston University, totaling 45 points (21G, 24A) in 31 games. And let’s not forget that during his 3-game NHL debut, Keller notched two assists. While that may not seem like much, if you look at his stats as a whole, Keller has consistently been a more-than-point-per-game player his whole career. And if there’s anything the Coyotes currently need, it’s consistent scoring.
Despite his size, Keller is really an all around forward. He brings a huge offensive upside - a playmaker and visionary, fast skating, and precise shot - but also has a highly touted defensive game, as evidenced by his time on the penalty kill. And while he can play wing with the best of them, Keller also shines as a centerman, making him even more versatile.
What does the future hold for Clayton Keller?:
Honestly, there’s really nowhere for Clayton Keller to go but up. He’s taken every league he’s been a part of (quietly) by storm and he hasn’t shown signs of stopping yet. The real question is whether he’ll play wing or center.
While both options have pros and cons, the biggest issue might be Keller’s size. Depending on how much he has progressed this past season and this summer, Keller could see more time on the wing than at center, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would give him more time to grow and adjust to the NHL and he could then eventually transition to center. Even better, he’ll be a secret weapon the Coyotes can deploy at center to throw off the other team’s game when they least expect it.
Either way, I’d make sure to keep my eye on Clayton Keller this upcoming season.