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Player Grades 2017: Clayton Keller brings hope to the Arizona Coyotes

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Clayton Keller only played a few games for the Coyotes, but his arrival signaled the start of something new.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Coyotes had something of a bust of a season. Well, actually it was a total bust. But if there were any two things that went right after all, it was the draft that made Clayton Keller a Coyote and the season he had wearing other teams’ uniforms.

For most of the past year, Keller spent a great deal of his time at Agganis Arena in West Boston. When the Coyotes drafted Keller, he was in the midsts of planning the early part of his hockey career; college hockey or junior hockey. So when Keller opted for college hockey, Coyotes fans got ready for a show.

And boy did he put on a show.

The Kids Has Some Skillz

Keller produced 45 points over his time with the Boston University Terriers, many of which came from fantastic goals like this one:

And this short range snipe:

And this on-goal effort leading to a primary assist (skip to 27:35):

Clayton Keller was Boston’s best forward this season. He, at one point, went on a 15-game point streak and lead BU to the NCAA playoffs where they eventually fell to Frozen Four Finalist Minnesota-Duluth.

For his efforts, he earned the Tim Taylor Award for the 2016-17 season, which is given to the top Freshman in NCAA hockey. If Keller had not been injured for a part of the season, he would have likely had more consideration for the Hobey-Baker.

But Keller also donned the stars and stripes, playing 7 games for the United States U-20 team, otherwise known as the US Junior team, and led this squad to a World Junior Championship where he made this absolutely exceptional dangling move to score against Russia:

Clayton Coyote?

Clayton Keller, who surprised many by going 7th overall in the 2016 Draft, proved to be one of the best players in his class, and certainly the best to not break into the NHL in his first season after being drafted until, that is, March 27th.

On that date, Clayton Keller made his NHL debut in St. Louis against his hometown Blues. He skated just over 14 minutes and earned 0 points, but stayed in the clear with the +/- as well as with penalties. His speed was, without question, his most notable asset. And while he was gassed from a season-long effort with BU and the US Juniors, he gave Coach Tippett and his teammates everything he had in that loss to St. Louis.

Keller went on to play in two more matchups, posting 2 assists, but ultimately was scratched a majority of what was his first ‘season’. Clayton Keller worked his butt off to get to the NHL. He shined on every level, and he is undoubtedly set to show the NHL next season why he should not have been left until 7th to be taken, but 3rd or even higher.

Clayton Keller was the biggest surprise (yet) to come of this last draft and while the results for many teams remain outstanding, John Chayka’s gamble on a forward over a defensemen early on in the draft has given Arizona the dynamic scorer they’ve been looking for for a very long time (with absolutely no offense to Max Domi, Keller is more Patrick Kane than Domi).

After a stellar season with Boston, US Juniors, and the Coyotes, Keller was invited and joined Team USA at the 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship. Although Team USA was knocked out of the quarterfinals by Finland, Clayton racked up 5 G, 2 A, +6, and 15 SOG in 8 games, tying Brock Nelson (Islanders) for 4th in points on the team. He also tied Islander’s Anders Lee in goals for Team USA, second only to Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) who had 6.

Keller deserves an A for his season. He won a Junior Gold Medal. He carried his NCAA team to the playoffs and he broke into the NHL, even for only a brief moment, while still producing 2 assists in only 3 games despite playing one of his longest career seasons across 3 organizations.

How do you think Clayton Keller did this season, beyond his short time in Arizona? Vote below!

The grades of all the other Coyotes players can be found on our master post here.

Poll

What Grade Would You Give Clayton Keller

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    A
    (71 votes)
  • 13%
    A-
    (19 votes)
  • 6%
    B+
    (9 votes)
  • 2%
    B
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    He won a Gold Medal...come on!
    (5 votes)
  • 23%
    The grade above an A
    (33 votes)
141 votes total Vote Now