Our third prospect profile is Clayton Keller. The USA National Team Development Program product had an absolutely insane season all around. He was the USDP’s best player this year by a good margin. The Boston University commit has put up points in every league and level he’s played at. The Windsor Spitfires currently own his OHL rights, and they will try their hardest to get Keller on their team. Let’s take a long look at someone I hope is available for the Devils at 11.
From: Swansea, IL, USA
Weight: 170 lbs
The rankings provided are the most recent rankings at the time of this writing.
ISS Hockey: 12th
Craig Button: 8th
The Draft Analyst: 8th
Future Considerations: 9th
Bob McKenzie: 10th
Draft Buzz: 12th
McKeen’s Hockey: 14th
NHL Central Scouting: 9th (NA Skaters)
A few mock drafts have Keller going to the Devils at 11, and his draft rankings do put him in that range.
Keller scores a lot. It’s pretty easy to see that when you look at his stats. The thing that stands out the most is that Keller has produced at every level and league. He’s not a player who had one hot season and came back down to earth the next one. From his time at Shattuck St. Mary’s to his time with the NTDP, Keller has put up big numbers. Out of players with at least 70 USDP games played, Keller ranks third in PPG with a 1.54. The two players with better PPG averages are Phil Kessel and Auston Matthews. That’s some pretty great company for Keller. He has the second best single season in NTDP history with 107 points, behind Matthews who had 117. Some names Keller is ahead of are Patrick Kane, Jack Eichel, and Phil Kessel. Now, I’m not saying that Keller is going to be like or better than these players, but the numbers are pretty encouraging.
Keller also has some international experience. He has represented USA at the U17 and U18 levels. He has killed it in tournaments such as the U17 World Hockey Challenge and U18 World Championship. He put up 13 points in 6 games at the U17 WHC for a stellar 2.17 PPG average. I’ll let this photo do the talking when it comes to his U18 World Championship numbers.
If you can’t see in the picture, he has put up 8 goals, 15 assists for 23 points in 14 games. A lot of good players have played for the USA at the U18 World Championship, and Keller is just another one of them.
I’m going to turn to Steve Kournianos from The Draft Analyst for our first quote on Keller. Steve says,
“This season, he’s been the brightest of stars on a loaded team overflowing with draft prospects, leading his squad in scoring by a country mile (he has 19 more points than the second leading scorer). The development of talent-rich forwards like Keller generally follows a common pattern, but we’re starting to see there’s nothing common about him. Some like to compare him to special talents such as Toronto prospect Mitch Marner. Others see a resemblance to Doug Gilmour. He’s going to be in the NHL one day, regardless, and we simply cannot call him a consolation prize in a draft substantially devoid of top-end centers once removed from the early stages of the first round.”
There’s a decent amount to digest here, so let’s start with the beginning. As Steve says, Keller was the star on a team full of draft-eligible prospects, and it wasn’t really close. Being compared to Mitch Marner is pretty impressive, especially after the season he had in the OHL. Steve mentions that he isn’t just a common player, and I really like that. He’s got something that’s special about him. The last part of this quote that really stands out to me is when Steve says he won’t be just a consolation prize in the draft. He’s going to be a great pick for whoever picks him.
Craig Button had this to say about Keller:
“Clayton Keller (No. 8) is an excellent player who has the skills, brain, competitiveness and confidence to not only impact the game, but to also dictate significant portions of offensive play. The U.S. NTDP centre has panorama vision – there is no play he doesn’t see and he is always dangerous even when it may appear that he isn’t. Keller controls the game and brings out the best abilities of those he plays with.”
And Future Considerations said this about Keller:
“A small but highly dynamic playmaker that is not afraid to go to the greasy areas for a scoring chance. He skates well with the ability to rocket down the ice and add a quick lateral burst to get through a hole when required. Has very impressive vision and ability to pick up options all over the ice all while maintaining possession and protecting the puck. Is a 100% effort player who rarely takes a shift off. Also possesses a pin-point shot that he hits his mark with when in a position to score. A very dangerous offensive player who has definite top six NHL potential.”
I love the fact that he can impact the game in a big way, and that he is dangerous even when he doesn’t have the puck. If he’s the kind of player that the other team always has to be aware of, he’s a good player. Button and Future Considerations both mention how Keller has great vision on the ice, which is important for someone labeled as a playmaker. The final thing I want to point out is something from the Button quote. Button says that he makes others better, and that’s the kind of player you want in your top 6.
Scoring Line’s Opinion
Personally, Keller is the guy I want at 11. Like I’ve said throughout this profile, he has put up points in every league and level he’s been in. A top 6 featuring him and Pavel Zacha would be great, and just thinking about it makes me warm and fuzzy inside. I think he’s going to be a special player, and potentially a steal at 11. If he’s available at 11, I want the Devils to pick him. There’s a lot of talk about his size, but smaller players with skill have had success in the NHL, so it’s not something I’m worried about. Plus, he’s a young kid, there’s still time for him to grow and add muscle. He’s not going to impact the Devils right away, but he would make the future look brighter than it is now. Hopefully when the Devils walk to the podium in June, it’s to draft Clayton Keller.
(Photo courtesy of Rena Laverty)