As of November 15th, 2017, The Arizona Coyotes are the worst team in the National Hockey League. In their first 19 games, they have two wins and seven points. Interestingly, the second-worst team, the Florida Panthers, has five wins and 12 points. The Coyotes have sunk into their own tier of terrible talent in the league, incomparable to any other organization.
However, it’s not all black skies for the Coyotes. Various role players and a few veteran leaders shine, but the Coyotes brightest star is Clayton Keller.
Keller, the Coyotes 7th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Early Entry Draft, is a frontrunner for the Frank Calder award. According to nhl.com, Keller leads all rookies in goals (11), points (17) and shots (61). Keller is also ninth in assists (6) among rookies.
Keller’s extraordinary attributes contribute greatly to his statistical prominence early this season. His hockey instincts, positioning, and knowledge are elite for his class.
His first career goal against the Anaheim Ducks was a result of positional awareness, as he cut from the corner of the rink to the net, timed a rebound, stole the puck and put a shot on perfectly. Few rookies have a better mental presence than him.
Speed is a defining characteristic for Keller as well.
Against Dallas, in his first three-point game of his career, his second goal of the night showcased this excellent speed. On a play noted for good defense leading to instant offense, Keller broke up a pass by a Dallas defender, skated past both blue lines and outhustled every defender to earn a clear shot against the goaltender, creating the game-tying goal.
Keller is a quality player, but he has more value than his production. He’s also an attraction for the Coyotes to acquire more talent.
Going forward, the Coyotes will need to market their new cornerstone toward developing a core. They are in a preliminary phase developing as an organization now, but if their front office publicizes playing with Clayton Keller as worthwhile, the demand to play in Arizona will grow.