GLENDALE - Clayton Keller turned pro on Sunday when he signed an entry-level contract with the Coyotes less than 24 hours after completing his freshman season at Boston University.
Soon after signing, Keller, whom the Coyotes drafted seventh overall last year, led the stretch at Arizona's practice at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. It was special for Keller because he grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Swansea, Ill., and used to attend Blues games.
"It's great to get out there with the guys," Keller said after his first practice. "I'm a little tired, but it's not hard to get up for your first NHL practice. It's really cool."
Keller and Boston University played two games in the NCAA tournament this weekend in Fargo, N.D. They beat North Dakota in the first game on Friday in double overtime, but lost to Minnesota Duluth in overtime on Saturday. Keller, who led Boston University in goals (21) and points (45) this season, had a goal and two assists in the two NCAA Tournament games.
"College was great," Keller said. "I can't thank the coaches and everyone there that made my time so special. I really feel like I matured and grew a lot. It was a great experience."
While Keller, 18, admits he's tired from the games he played this weekend, plus the late night/early morning traveling he did, he'd love to make his NHL debut in St. Louis on Monday.
"It's special that they let me come in here late and get a few games in," Keller said. "I think it can really help me for next year, just learning from the older guys and realizing how to be a pro and how to take care of your body … Little things like that can help you in the long run."
Video: Rookie Keller discusses signing with the Coyotes
Keller, who will wear sweater No. 14 with the Coyotes, is a crafty forward known for his skill, his speed and his hockey IQ. But he also takes pride in being a fierce competitor.
"I'm a guy that likes to compete," Keller said "I'm not the biggest guy but I never really give up on a puck. I'll battle the bigger guys."
Keller's parents, his brother, and other family members and friends are expected to attend Monday's game.
"We'll see," Head Coach Dave Tippett said when asked if Keller would play vs. the Blues. "We'll evaluate everything from today, but that's the hope, that he's ready to go tomorrow."
Tippett said Keller is ready to turn pro and he's pleased he'll be able to experience the final seven games in the season.
"It's good for him to get in this year and just get a little bit of a taste of it," Tippett said. "I think he's going to find out how hard it really is to play in this league … When you get to this league, it's all the top players in the world, not just a few of them. It'll be a real challenge for him."
Video: Tippett answers questions after Sunday's practice