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Clayton Keller Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #11

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Clayton Keller opened eyes last year when he led the US NTDP U-17 team in scoring and won a silver medal at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. He was also part of the gold medal winning USA team for the U-18 World Championships as an under-ager. He’s continued to make an impression this year playing full time for the U-18 team. The type of numbers Keller is putting up are eye popping. His 87 points in 53 games is equal to what Jack Eichel produced during his under-18 season with US NTDP, and is amongst the top producers ever at the program, trailing only Auston Matthews’ production in recent years. Keller will be leading the American team at the IIHF Under 18 World Hockey Championships later this month.  He is committed to attend Boston University next season, but should he choose to change his mind and go the CHL route, his draft rights are owned by the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.

Clayton Keller Scouting Report: 2016 NHL Draft #11

Centre — shoots Left
Born Jul 29 1998 — Swanson, IL
Height 5’10” — Weight 168 lbs [178 cm/76 kg]

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.

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.

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.

Below is a compilation of Clayton Keller highlights found on youtube.

Check back tomorrow for the number 12 prospect on our draft board.

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