The 2016 NHL Entry Draft would be a big one for the Arizona Coyotes. The rebuild was in full effect, and they had two picks in the first round. With the first pick, they drafted Chesterfield, MO native Clayton Keller.
19/20 League: NHL (Arizona Coyotes)
Games played: 70
Highest rating: 2
Lowest rating: 6
Clayton Keller is a big piece of the Coyotes' future. He is key to the team's offense, being the team's top point scorer in his first two full seasons with the team. This is the first year he wasn't the team's top scorer, with Nick Schmaltz having one more point.
After a sophomore slump, Keller had a bit of a rebound season last year. He finished with fewer points, but that was because of fewer games. If the season had continued normally he would have likely hit 20 goals and 50 points for the second time in three seasons.
This past season Keller would get a chance to see the post-season for the first time in his short career. Keller led the team with four goals and seven points in nine games.
Keller's contract already made him a lightning rod for controversy before it even took effect. This will be the first year of his eight-year, $57.2 million deal and he will be the team's highest-paid forward and second-highest paid player.
With a contract like that, Keller is not only going to need to be one of the team's best players, but he is going to need to step up his game. Craig Morgan wrote on AZ Coyotes Insider that Keller has been working during the offseason to improve physically and improve his game.
Keller's first year, when he was still underestimated, was his best so far. This past year he took a step forward, and he looked good in the post-season. He is going to need to take another step forward, but there seems to be no reason to doubt that he can.
The shortened season may make it harder to see the improvement of all players, including Keller. If he can get 41 points in 56 games it will be comparable to him getting 60 points in an 82 game season. Keller hit 65 points his rookie season, and it should be reasonable to expect that again.