GLENDALE - Clayton Keller played just three games for the Coyotes at the end of last season, but he credits that brief stint in the world's premiere hockey league with helping him burst onto the scene this season as a true NHL freshman.
"It was huge to get that experience last year," Keller told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday, just a few hours after the NHL named him the Rookie of the Month for October. "I can't thank the Coyotes enough for letting me come in late. I keep saying it, but you never really know how hard it is until you play the game and see how fast it is and how strong guys are. It's a man's league, so it was great for me to get that little bit of a taste last year. This year I've had great linemates to play with and everyone's been real great to me, so I have to give a lot of credit to them."
Keller notched nine goals and six assists in 13 games played in October. He ranks tied for fourth in the NHL in goals scored and tops among rookies in goals (nine), points (15) and shots (49).
"It's cool," Keller said of the award. "It's something I've kind of been working for. I wanted to have an impact right away and help our team as much as I can every single night."
Keller has been one of just a few bright spots for the Coyotes, who have stumbled to a 1-11-1 record to start the season.
"I'm not really focused on my individual game," Keller said. "I'm focused on playing my game every single night and doing everything I can to contribute and help the team out as much as I can. So, no matter what our record, or whatever we are, I'm just going to go into every game the same way."
Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet has played Keller on the top line with Derek Stepan and Max Domi all season. The 19-year-old ranks second on the team among the forwards in ice time per/game at 19:51.
Keller, whom the Coyotes picked seventh overall at the 2016 NHL Draft, will enter Thursday's home game vs. Buffalo with a seven-game point streak, the longest for a Coyotes rookie since Peter Mueller chipped in at least one point in seven straight games in 2007-08.
"The NHL is a fast game nowadays and you've got to have speed and have hockey IQ," Keller said. "I think those are two things I have in my game, and I take a lot of pride (in that)."
Video: Keller on Rookie of the Month