Clayton Keller Signs Entry Level Deal With Arizona Coyotes

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BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25: Clayton Keller #19 of the Boston University Terriers skates against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during NCAA men's hockey at Agganis Arena on February 25, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Terriers won 4-1 and clinched a share of the Hockey East regular season championship. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Clayton Keller

With college seasons winding down, many players are making the choices to jump to the pro level. The Arizona Coyotes inked Clayton Keller to an entry level deal a day after Boston University was eliminated in the NCAA tournament. Keller will report to the Coyotes and will finish the season in the NHL.

Clayton Keller Signs Entry Level Deal

At 18-years-old, Keller will be able to join the Coyotes for the rest of the season and not burn a year off of his contract. Since he is under the age of 19, he would have to play in nine games for that to happen. The Coyotes only have seven games left in the season, however.

Keller recently completed his freshman year at Boston University. He was the team’s leading scorer with 21 goals and 24 assists in 31 games. He recorded a point in 27 of 30 games, finishing tied for seventh in points per game among all college hockey players.

International Play

Keller was also a part of the United States team that captured gold in the 2017 World Junior Championship. He led the team in scoring with three goals and eight assists in seven games. His 11 points were also third most in the tournament.

Keller spend last season with the United States National Development team. He registered 37 goals and 70 assists for the team in 62 games last season. His career point total of 46 goals and 84 assists is the second most all time for the team. Keller is also the all time assists leader.

“We are extremely pleased to sign Clayton to an entry level contract,” said GM John Chayka. “Clayton is a highly skilled, dynamic forward. He is a strong skater who has a powerful shot and great hockey sense. We are excited to have him join our team and finish the regular season with the Coyotes.”

With Keller’s addition, the Coyotes roster features eight draft picks since 2011. Max Domi, Connor Murphy and Christian Dvorak are among the young talent the team has. Keller’s presence will be another key addition to the team’s rebuild.

It looks like Keller will enter the lineup when the team faces the St. Louis Blues on Monday night. He was seen practicing on a line with Radim Vrbata and Alexander Burmistrov.

Scouting Report by Ben Kerr

Skating

Clayton Keller is a quick skater with an outstanding first step and an ability to accelerate extremely quickly.  He can dart into openings in the offensive zone, creating space to get a pass and get off a quick shot.  Keller’s ability to change speeds on the rush can create nightmares for defencemen.  He also has excellent agility and the edgework necessary to weave through traffic and create scoring chances. The exceptional skating often allows Keller to gain a step on defenders, and force them into taking penalties to prevent him creating a scoring chance. Keller will need to add muscle to his frame going forward though, as he can get knocked around by bigger defenders at this point. He needs to strengthen his core in order to improve his balance and be more effective in the corners and in front of the net.

Offensive Game

Clayton Keller can be a pure sniper. His snapshot and wrist shot are lightning quick, heavy and deadly accurate. Keller has a nice arsenal of shots, as he also has a good one-timer, and a strong backhand. He uses his skating skills to make plays with the puck on his stick, creating passing lanes where he can set up a teammate with a tape-to-tape pass. Defenders have to respect his speed, and when they back off to protect the net, he can pull up to use the defender as a screen and fire it on net, or to create an opportunity to set up a teammate. Keller’s stickhandling is smooth and he can beat defenders one-on-one both on the rush, and in the cycle game. He extends plays allowing his teammates the time to get open. His hockey sense is extremely well developed and he makes smart plays with the puck on his stick. Keller has excellent vision, and can thread a pass through the tiniest of openings to set up a teammate for a scoring chance. He also has a knack for avoiding defenders and getting open to unleash his shot.

Defensive Game

Keller may be undersized, but that doesn’t hurt his defensive game at all. He is strong in the face-off circle. Keller is often used by Team USA to match top lines and to kill penalties. He reads the play extremely well and cuts down passing lanes and creates turnovers with his quickness. Once that happens Keller can transition to offense extremely quickly. Despite his size he’s willing to play a gritty game and backchecks well, but could again use added core strength going forward.

Clayton Keller has the skill to be a top notch forward, if he can overcome his size issues. Those make him a bit of a risky pick, but with more and small players succeeding in the NHL, we don’t see this as a huge issue. He will need some time to gain the weight necessary to stand up to the rigors of the pro game though. Keller’s style is reminiscent of Doug Gilmour, though this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on talent.

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