Weight: 170 lbs
Team (League): U.S. National Development Program U18
ISS rank: 17
CSS rank: A (no rankings released)
FC rank: 8
THN rank: NA
DTJ rank: 7
Current Statline for 2015-2016 Season: 32 GP, 21G 42A 63P 20PIM, 1.97 Points/Game
I will start this off by saying that in terms of pure talent among American draft-eligible prospects, Keller is 2nd behind Matthews. I mean that with no disrespect to the other American draft-eligibles, but rather a testament to the immense amount of skill and potential this young man has.
Gifted with remarkable vision and IQ, Clayton Keller is an imminent offensive threat. His skating is agile and powerful. He has a quick-release and powerful shot, and his passing is remarkable. Consistently one of the top scorers on each of his respective teams, Keller can beat defenders in a broad variety of ways. He's played against all types of competition and has done well against each one, and his offense has translated remarkably well at each level up.
Keller's smooth puckhandling is almost like something you'd see in an NHL video game. He is used in every type of game situation, and has a generally good two-way game to compliment his excellent offensive instincts. Despite his excellent goal-scoring ability, I've always viewed him as a pass-first type player. He's developed remarkable chemistry with Kieffer Bellows (2016 draft-eligible) on the top line of the USNDP, and both are actually committed to Boston University for the 2016-2017 season. On a bit of a side note, the recruitment class for 2016-2017 at Boston University is incredible. With Keller, Bellows, Dante Fabbro, Chad Krys, and a few others going there, the Terriers will have a formidable line-up. Keller and Bellows have good chemistry now and should perform quite well together at BU.
Went on a bit of a tangent there, but back to Keller. A mark of an advanced prospect is the ability to perform against older competition. Keller is one of the younger prospects eligible in the draft (only 3 eligible players are younger), and has played against competition up to 2 or 3 years older than him. Keller possesses an almost-internal motor which helps propel his game not unlike Zach Parise. However, there's also a prevalence of Patrick Kane in Keller's game...not just from the size similarity, but also the poise with the puck, balance on the puck, and the offensive threat. Despite being nearly a year younger than Auston Matthews, Keller is on pace to come awfully close to matching Matthews' USNDP records. I'm not going to throw out the "F" word (franchise), but I'm really high up on Keller. Despite his obvious concerns about playing center despite being rather undersized, he has stepped up to the challenges each step of the way. He's ranked right around the 13th overall by a few different scouting services (no way to really see where NHL teams rank him), but I think his stock will rise after the WJC-18 this year. I think he's going to have a fantastic tournament, which may help propel his stock upwards.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, Keller is absolutely a prospect the Devils should keep an eye on. It would be great for his stock if he could grow another inch or two taller, but his play is excellent regardless of what number is there. I'd like to see him add some more muscle and work on his skating speed to help his transition to the higher leagues. I can't wait to see him play at Boston U. next season. I think Keller would be a phenomenal addition on the same line as Pavel Zacha too. Keller will be selected anywhere from 7th-13th overall. I have the feeling a lot of teams will regret passing on Clayton Keller in upcoming years.
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