The Arizona Coyotes aren’t very good. I can stand firmly behind that statement thanks to a solid 19 points on the season, good for 30th place in the NHL. Plus, I doubt either Coyotes fan will ever read this.
So it makes it difficult to throw a spotlight on a specific member of the organization that will be visiting Boston tonight to take on the B’s. There has always been young raw talent in Arizona, but the core group has yet to take that next step. It reminds me of Edmonton.
And there are Coyotes that Bruins fans have seen up close plenty of times. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who will certainly be a trade deadline target for contending teams looking to load up on defense. He scored in the Coyotes 6-2 loss to Boston in October. Anthony Duclair is another fun one to watch, but has largely been inconsistent this year.
However, my number to watch tonight is #9. That’s worn by Coyote rookie Clayton Keller (USA), who is facing the Bruins for the second time in his career. In the loss back in October, the former Boston University Terrier registered 4 shots against the B’s and was a -2.
That was one of Keller’s few off nights in his first month in the NHL. A month where he netted an impressive 9 goals. He’s since cooled off, but that is the normal trajectory of a rookie. Dips and dives throughout the adaptation to playing in the NHL.
Keller was selected seventh overall in the 2016 NHL Draft and it’s safe to assume that there is a lot expected of the 19-year-old. He only played in three games for Arizona last year. This year, his true rookie season, he has 11 goals and 12 assists in 30 games. It’s always fun to watch smaller guys like Keller who like play aggressive offensively as well. He’s taken 87 shots so far this season.
While the goals have become scarcer in the colder months Coyotes head coach Rich Tocchet and his staff want the rookie to continue to develop a nose for the net, and reduce the number of shots he passes up. Below lies a perfect example of Kellers ability to finish:
As you can see, the Caps defense was more concerned about a potential pass, Keller’s strength, yet Keller took the opening and snapped it home.
And speaking of Tocchet, listen to who he compares Keller to in this recent piece by Bob McManaman of AZcentral Sports…
“They’re both dynamic in their own way,” Tocchet said. “Stamkos is a sniper dynamic, where Keller is more of a shifty, puck-possession guy. Don’t get me wrong, Keller can finish. But he really distributes the puck really well. He’s a facilitator. He can get in and out of traffic as good as anybody I’ve seen. If he continues to do that, he’s going to get a lot of his wingers a ton of points.”
Not bad, Eh? Keller’s being compared to a guy who has 620 points in his back pocket.
He probably won’t win the Calder with guys like Brock Boeser and Mathew Barzal producing for teams in the top sixteen. And his -17 can’t help the optics, but so are the breaks when playing for a cellar-dweller.
Perhaps being on the ice with a fellow Calder candidate will help spark Keller. Keep an eye out for #9.
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