Though he dropped a spot from eighth to ninth in the final Central Scouting rankings, Clayton Keller is an interesting prospect down the center of the ice. ISS ranks him 12th overall in this draft. He is undersized, but there is no denying his knack for offense. Scouts praise his vision, his shot, and his work ethic, and at times he's shown a willingness to get dirty and go to the tough areas to score.
He skates well, and is a tremendous playmaker; witness his 70 assists in 67 games. The big issue for him is one he has no real control of: he's small. Very small. At a hair under 5'10" depending on which sites you read as struggling to hit 170 pounds, it's going to take a few years for him to get the strength to battle at both ends in the NHL. There's no denying is skill and offensive talent. But, can it translate to the NHL level?
Current Team: USNTDP U-18
Date of Birth: July 29, 1998
Place of Birth: Swansea, Illinois
Weight: 170 lbs
Clayton Keller is an excellent player who has the skills, brain, competitiveness and confidence to not only impact the game, but to also dictate significant portions of offensive play. The U.S. NTDP centre has panorama vision - there is no play he doesn’t see and he is always dangerous even when it may appear that he isn’t. Keller controls the game and brings out the best abilities of those he plays with.
--Craig Button, TSN
A small but highly dynamic playmaker that is not afraid to go to the greasy areas for a scoring chance. He skates well with the ability to rocket down the ice and add a quick lateral burst to get through a hole when required. Has very impressive vision and ability to pick up options all over the ice all while maintaining possession and protecting the puck. Is a 100% effort player who rarely takes a shift off. Also possesses a pin-point shot that he hits his mark with when in a position to score. A very dangerous offensive player who has definite top six NHL potential.
--Future Considerations, November, 2015
A Good Fit in Columbus?
You can't often go wrong with a center with this kind of offensive vision and playmaking skill. That said, size is a big concern, and the timeline for Keller into the NHL may be three years. His ability defensively against bigger NHL centers is something we'll have to wait for, as well. Keller put up numbers similar to Sonny Milano's draft-eligible season for the USNT-DP, and Milano still probably needs a year in the AHL now in his third post-draft season. Both players are similarly sized, though Milano is probably stronger. The same is probably going to hold for Keller in terms of seasoning. His long-term offensive ceiling, though, is top-six for sure. He'd probably be a reach in the top-10, though.
Keller in Action