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Keller Quickly Emerging as Young Star in NHL

Coyotes rookie Clayton Keller leads the team in goals and points through 10 games

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

NEW YORK -- Coyotes forward Clayton Keller is quickly emerging as a young star in the NHL.

Ten games into his rookie season, Keller is leading the Coyotes and NHL freshmen in goals (seven) and points (11).

Only Nikita Kucherov (12), Alex Ovechkin (10) and Auston Matthews (eight) have scored more goals than Keller, the media favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie. But being in the spotlight isn't something Keller enjoys too much.

"I had two great coaches growing up in (former NHLers) Jeff Brown an Keith Tkachuk, and they always emphasized being unselfish," Keller said. "So we were definitely a pass-first team and I think that really helped me out a lot. I'm more focused on the team, and I know if I play my game the rest will take care of itself."

Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet has been impressed by Keller's skills and the way the 19-year-old handles himself on the ice. 

"He's a respectful kid, but he's got swagger," Tocchet said. "I like that about him. He's around the puck and he's not scared … He's 19 years old and I'm playing him 21 minutes (a game) and he's producing. He's battling. He makes mistakes like everybody, but he's a battler. I can't get him off the ice."

Center Derek Stepan has enjoyed playing on a line with Max Domi and Keller. He said Keller's a gifted player.

"The guy is always around the puck and he's just got a knack for the net and the puck seems to follow him," Stepan said. "We always talk about good players and how the puck always follows them. He's one of those guys. That's a rare talent."

While Keller is boasting impressive statistics, he's yet to win a game as an NHL player. The Coyotes are 0-11-2 in the 13 games he has played with them - 10 this season and three last season.  

"We're just thinking about the next game," Keller said. "There's nothing more to it. We're going to go at it just like every other game and go at it the best that we can. A win would mean a lot to this group. It's just what we need right now. I think it will happen sooner rather than later if we keep playing our game. Nobody here wants to lose. Everybody wants to win. We have to continue to stay positive. Hopefully things will turn around here. Every young team goes through this. We just have to stay positive."

Three weeks into his first NHL season, Keller is enjoying his pro career. It's been a lot of hard work, and he's taking nothing for granted, but he's also taken time to appreciate the lifestyle of being an elite athlete and playing the game he loves in vibrant cities across the country. 

"This is my job," Keller said. "There are no off days. You always have to be ready for games and practices. I think practicing hard means a lot. If you're always doing the right things in practice, like making the right pass, that can go a long way. At the same time, it's also been a lot of fun and exciting." 

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