St. Louis Blues

Swansea native is NHL’s Rookie of the Month for October

Coyotes rookie and Swansea native makes his NHL debut in St. Louis

Clayton Keller, a Swansea native who just finished his freshman season at Boston University, made his National Hockey League debut Monday for the Arizona Coyotes against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
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Clayton Keller, a Swansea native who just finished his freshman season at Boston University, made his National Hockey League debut Monday for the Arizona Coyotes against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Swansea native Clayton Keller, a center with the Arizona Coyotes, has been named the National Hockey League’s Rookie of the Month for October.

Keller led all first-year players with 15 points in 13 games. He edged Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev, New Jersey’s Will Butcher and Jesper Bratt, and the Los Angeles Kings’ Adrian Kempe for the award.

Keller, 19, has nine goals and six assists for the Coyotes, who are an NHL-worst 1-11-1 despite Keller’s sizzling start to the season.

Keller became the franchise’s first rookie to record at least nine goals in one month since Teemu Selanne had 20 goals in March 1993. He also is the first to 15 points in a month since Selanne and Keith Tkachuk did so in March 1993, when the team was still called the Winnipeg Jets.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Keller leads all rookies with 49 shots on goal and has scored at least one point in 10 of the Coyotes’ 13 games. He had a career-high two goals in games against Detroit on Oct. 12 and Dallas on Oct. 19.

Keller, the seventh overall pick in the 2016 entry draft, has scored at least one point in seven consecutive games.

Clayton Keller
Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) controls the puck past the New Jersey Devils’ Adam Henrique during a game Saturday in Newark, N.J. Keller, a Swansea native, has been named the National Hockey League’s Rookie of the Month for October. Adam Hunger/AP

The Coyotes’ 1-11-1 start is the NHL’s worst since the 1943-44 season, when the New York Rangers opened the season with 11 consecutive losses.

The Coyotes will play host to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. They will be at Scottrade Center in St. Louis to face the red-hot Blues at 7 p.m. Nov. 9.

One of the few positives in this early-season swoon has been Keller. There is a growing belief that the 19-year-old rookie can be a player who can help the team finally get moving in the right direction. They Coyotes have not made the playoffs since 2012.

“He’s a guy who has some swagger,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said in a recent news conference. “He has real confidence in him, bordering on cockiness. That’s a good thing because he is a respectful kid and a good teammate. He works well with coaches and he takes criticism well. He’s a big part of what we are trying to do here.”

High-scoring center Clayton Keller is widely considered among the top 15 prospects in the upcoming NHL Draft. That would make the Swansea native the first player from the metro-east selected in the first round. Keller played for the U.S. National

Keller is the leading rookie goal scorer and point producer. Keller’s 38 shots on goal rank 16th among all NHL players.

Another indicator of Keller’s presence is his ice time. Coach Rick Tocchet is playing him an average of 19:49 minutes per game. He has averaged more than 20 minutes over the past four games, and currently ranks 29th among NHL forwards in playing time.

He’s playing more than Steven Stamkos (19:13), Vladimir Tarasenko (19:31) and Jamie Benn (19:32).

Keller was developed in the St. Louis area, playing in a group that included Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames), Luke Kunin (Minnesota Wild), Ottawa Senators prospect Logan Brown and several other NHL draft picks including goalie Joseph Woll, of the Boston Bruins, who is playing college hockey at Boston College.

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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