MELBOURNE, Australia -- Clayton Keller sat in a black folding chair in the main hallway of America First Center in Henderson, Nevada, during the NHL North American Player Media Tour last week, clad in a baby blue patterned polo shirt, relaxed and ready. And why wouldn’t he be?
At this time last season, Keller was coming off a broken femur, a devastating injury that had him wondering whether he might ever play hockey again. He had rehabbed all summer, a grueling recovery that saw him unable to walk, reduced to texts to his mom, Kelley, when he needed anything.
But he had emerged from the injury better, stronger, resulting in his best season in the NHL, an 86-point campaign that tied him with Keith Tkachuk for the most points in a single season for the Arizona Coyotes.
So when Keller is asked whether he could get 100 this season, he gets a sly grin. He winks.
“Let’s do it,” he says.
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It makes sense that Keller is confident about the upcoming season. It makes sense that, at 25, Keller is ready for another career season, a way of building upon the heights he reached in 2022-23. It makes sense that he believes that 100 points are within his grasp, as Keller and the Arizona Coyotes embark on a campaign that holds more interest and more promise than many in recent memory.
That’s why his eyes light up and his face turns confident, hopeful.
This should be his year, no?
“Last season was such a question mark: Was he going to be able to perform? Was his leg going to feel OK?” Kelley Keller said. “This year he can just focus on playing and scoring and his team.”
That’s the plan.
And it will start with a bang. The Coyotes are kicking off training camp with a trip to Melbourne, Australia, for the 2023 NHL Global Series, playing two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Kings at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday and Sunday. The games are at 12 a.m. ET and will be available on NHL Network and ESPN+ in the United States, Sportsnet and Sportsnet+ in Canada, and 9Go, 9Now, ESPN and the ESPN App in Australia.
“I feel really good, obviously,” Keller said. “A full summer of training and skating as opposed to last summer, not much, and a lot of uncertainty going into the season about my health and things like that. I feel great. It’s the most excited I’ve been going into a season.”