Coyotes rookie Clayton Keller’s fast start drawing accolades and honors

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(Source: 3TV/KPHO) (Source: 3TV/KPHO)

He’s been a teenage dream, in a nightmare start.

“I don’t want to compare him to other stars; that’s not fair to him,” said Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet. “But let’s just say he has a little Patrick Kane in him.”

That’s lofty but deserved praise for 19-year-old Coyotes winger Clayton Keller, who was just named NHL’s Rookie of the Month for October after scoring nine goals and 15 points in the Coyotes first 13 games.

“It’s cool,” said Keller, who carefully chooses his words in light of his team’s 1-11-1 start. “It’s something that I’ve been working for in terms of trying to come in and make an impact right away. The numbers speak for themselves but I’m not going to pay attention to that. I’m just going to try and continue to play my game.”

Keller’s “game” is lethal in the offensive zone. A skill set that landed the St. Louis native on the Coyotes with the 7th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

“I think I’ve been around great players who’ve really made it easy on me [this season],” said Keller. “I mean Steps [Derek Stepan] and Max [Max Domi] are always in the right position and they find me in the offensive zone so I get a lot of touches. That’s kind of my game in the offensive zone so I have to give a lot of credit to them.”

In addition to being early “Rookie of the Year” candidate, Keller has been attracting national attention. A recent article from Sports Illustrated compared Keller to not only aforementioned Patrick Kane but also Flames star Johnny Gaudreau. Keller doesn’t shy away from those comparisons; he embraces them.

“Yeah, two great players that I’ve watched growing up,” said Keller. “I watched him [Gaudreau] play at Boston College and all the success he had there winning the Hobey Baker Award and then Kane speaks for himself. He’s one of, if not the best player in the NHL. I try and study those two guys and bring their games to my game.”

Keller’s feel for the game and flare for the moment isn’t lost on his head coach who is in search of leaders as the Coyotes continue to rebuild. 

“He’s a respectful kid and I don’t mind him having that swagger,” said Tocchet. “I don’t even want to use the word cocky. I think it’s confidence. He wants to be big in those moments in a hockey game and that’s infectious to your team.”

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