2016 NHL Draft Profile: Clayton Keller, the Next Great U.S. NHLer?

Fans are allowed to dream. It's easy to see an intriguing prospect and wonder what he'd look like in your team's colors. With the Flyers having the 17th pick in June's NHL draft, fans will have to do just that with Clayton Keller, who seems destined for the top 10.

At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, the American pivot has been excelling in this sport for a while now and he's only 17 years old. He's a member of the United States National Development Team, which plays in the USHL and against the occasional college team in exhibition.

The first thing that stands out about Keller is his elusiveness. He has great speed with superior puck-handling skills and tremendous hockey sense. The byproduct of that is defense always seems to be chasing him, and it allows him to have top-line potential.

Philadelphia Flyers

Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Flyers and their rivals in the NHL from NBC Sports Philadelphia.

2020 NHL Draft: Flyers Take Tyson Foerster With 23rd Overall Pick

Flyers Sign Robert Hagg to 2-Year Contract Extension

And it was also on display in Grand Forks, North Dakota, at the U-18 World Championship, which the U.S. placed third place and Keller received the tournament's MVP honors.

"That guy, I don't know how he does it," Kailer Yamamoto, Keller's teammate, said about Team USA's 8-2 win over Russia on April 14 in which Keller had two goals.

"I'm still speechless from the game right now, from what he's done out there."

In seven tournament games, Keller finished with four goals and 10 assists and a plus-11.

For the Swansea, Illinois, native, getting cut from the U-20 U.S. team may have put a permanent chip on his shoulder, as this year has been a record-setting one with the NTDP.

Keller's 70 assists are a single-season all-time high and his 107 points moves him ahead of stars like Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel on the single-season all-time points list.

"I have to give a lot of credit to my linemates," he said. "Being with them is pretty special."

It's a rarity a player this good offensively is almost as good defensively, but Keller is. He's also a shark in the faceoff circle, even against bigger, stronger players. He's also very coachable, which is important at the next level and he talks about it regularly.

"Trying to stay out of the box as much as we can and do what our coaches tell us," Keller said. "I'm always looking to play offense, but taking care of your own zone is the most important thing. And defense leads to offense."

In one of Team USA's games in this year's tournament, defenseman James Greenway blocked a shot, which Keller scooped up and took the length of the ice quickly. The centerman waited for Greenway to get into the play and sent him a cross-ice pass that led to a goal.

"I took it back to buy some time," Keller said, "and I saw him out of the corner of my eye and just kind of threw it over and didn't expect him to score a goal like that.

"It was a pretty special goal."

Keller will play for Boston University next season, where he's looking forward to playing college hockey.

"They've had great players who've come out of there," he said. "Obviously Jack Eichel and Kevin Shattenkirk are just a few of them. I felt really comfortable and it's just a place I wanted to play."

If the Flyers would like to have a shot at Keller, they would have to trade up from 17, which would cost them at least one big asset and picks. If Keller begins to fall, the price to move up would become a little cheaper. No matter what, the Flyers are flush with defensive prospects and one of them could be integral to make this happen. The Flyers' staff has them in position to have the best draft board possible.

Notes
Team USA took the Bronze medal game against Canada, 10-3. Since 2009, Team USA has struck gold at the U18 World Championships six out of eight years. … Kieffer Bellows, son of longtime NHL player Brian Bellows, is another big U.S. name heading into the draft.

Copyright CSNPhily
Contact Us