Coming off his second All-Star appearance in just his 5th year in the NHL, Clayton Keller is starting to blossom as a possible star in the league. After getting off to some slow starts in his first four seasons in the NHL, Keller is starting to show the confidence and skill that got him drafted 7th overall in the 2016 Draft.
He didn’t seem to have the size or strength to battle the grown men in the NHL but in the last year, he has seemed to add muscle and finesse in his game to make him more effective against the bigger defenseman and forwards in the league.
At just 23 years of age, it is unfair to say Keller won’t continue to improve as he gains more size, strength, and knowledge of the game. Just watching him this year he seems to be winning more battles in the corners and has been maintaining possession after said battles with a greater frequency than his first four years in the league.
Keller is beginning to perform to the standards of his large contract.
He has always had the skill to make incredible plays, which is why he was drafted 7th overall but as he has matured in the league you can see the growth in terms of hockey sense and IQ.
Keller has been able to improve his playmaking and has seemed to find a scoring touch. After a breakout season in 2017 with 23 goals and 65 points, he slowed down for the next couple of years.
In the beginning of his career, he seemed to be a bit passive but as he has developed in his early career he has seemed to gain more confidence and seems more apt to shoot the puck. With 17 goals through the first 46 games, he has a chance to set a career-high in goals and points this year.
The Yotes are obviously in the beginning of a brutal rebuild but with the growth, Keller is showing there is a strong chance he emerges as an elite playmaker and leader of the younger guys that are drafted and developed in the coming seasons. GM Bill Armstrong has been rumored to be listening on Jakob Chychrun but has voiced many times that they see Kels as a big part of this team’s future.
The Coyotes will need Keller to continue to develop to justify the massive contract extension that was given to him in 2019. The next couple of years will be interesting in Arizona but with some lottery luck and development from their young guys, there could be a light at the end of a very, very dark tunnel.