When the Arizona Coyotes drafted Clayton Keller 7th in the 2016 NHL entry draft, it was hoped he could play like his idol, Patrick Kane. Now, he still may a ways to go to get to that level, but he is making progress. In a rebuild season, he has some pretty impressive statistics. With 28 games as of this writing under his belt, he has collected seven goals and 12 assists good for 19 points. He is a versatile forward who works the power play, penalty kill, and gets back on defense.
Arizona Coyotes Clayton Keller Has Improved His Level of Play
When Keller came out of the gate in his first full NHL season in 2017-18, he tallied 23 goals and 42 assists for 65 points in 82 games. Had the Coyotes drafted the next Patrick Kane? Not yet. The following campaign he had just 17 goals, 27 assists in 70 games in 2019-20. Then, he followed that up with just 14 goals and 21 assists in the COVID shortened 2020-21 season.
Over the summer, Keller bulked up his frame by adding seven pounds of muscle. It has helped him tremendously when he needs to work the corners or fight for a loose puck. According to his former head coach Rick Tocchet, Keller is a student of the game. He is all into improving every time he steps onto the ice. He watches film to catch any deficiencies in his game and corrects them.
Current Coach Andre Tourigny Likes What He Sees
“His all-around game is even better than his numbers I think,” head coach Andre Tourigny told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke recently. “He competes really hard defensively; he strips guys, and he defends really, really well; Kells brings a lot of energy to the team.
“His body language, positive attitude and competitiveness have brought a lot of leadership to our team as well. … I’m really happy and proud of him to put the effort in. He’s a very, very competitive person.”
While Keller started out as a center, the now plays the wing. He and teammate Phil Kessel have worked some magical plays together. In the most recent game against the New York Rangers, Keller worked some magic in a pretty passing play. The goal gave the Yotes a 2-1 lead in the tight game.
Keller Has a Bright Future
While this season Keller’s improvement has been noticeable, playing on a rebuilding team doesn’t show his true abilities. If he were playing on a contender his production would be much higher. He has accepted being an alternate captain on the team, showing his leadership talents.
Hopefully once the rebuild has been completed, he can continue his surge to be a top line player on the Yotes. He has the skills and is starting to put it all together. The team has acquired so many future draft choices thanks to the work of general manager Bill Armstrong. Who knows, we could see a line of Shane Wright, Keller, and perhaps Nick Schmaltz on the ice turning on the red light?
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