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Coyotes’ Clayton Keller wins NHL Rookie of the Month

Arizona Coyotes' Clayton Keller (9) controls the puck past New Jersey Devils' Adam Henrique during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

When the Arizona Coyotes drafted Clayton Keller with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 draft, the hope was that they were getting a high-ceiling, top-six forward who could contribute offensively.

So far, albeit in a small sample size, Keller has lived up to that best-case scenario.

The 19-year-old led all rookies with nine goals and 15 points over the first month of the season, winning NHL Rookie of the Month for October.

“It’s cool,” Keller said of the honor on Wednesday. “It’s something that I’ve kind of been working toward this summer. I wanted to have an impact right away and like I said, just help our team as much I can every single night and contribute.”

Entering Wednesday, Keller was tied with second-year Toronto center Auston Matthews for fourth in the NHL with nine goals, trailing the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov (13), Islanders’ John Tavares (11) and Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin (10).

That’s pretty good company.

“I’m not really focused on my individual game,” he said. “I’m focused on playing my game every single night and doing everything I can to help the team out as much as I can.”

Still, Keller’s hot start made him the first rookie in franchise history since March of 1993 to score at least nine goals during a calendar month. Teemu Selanne scored 20 for the then-Winnipeg Jets. That was also the last time a player recorded 15 points in a month for the Coyotes/Jets franchise, as Keller did in October.

It may not be coincidence that the Boston University alumnus’ early success has come as he’s played on a line with Max Domi and veteran center Derek Stepan. He also got a brief stint in the league last year, playing three games and scoring two points for the Coyotes.

“It was great for me to get a little bit of a taste last year,” he said. “This year, I’ve had great line mates to play with and everyone’s been real great to me, so I have to give a lot of credit to them.”

From here, Keller will look to continue what is currently a seven-game point streak (the longest for a Coyotes rookie since Peter Mueller in 2008) when Arizona faces the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at home. That game begins at 7 p.m.

98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Kevin Zimmerman contributed to this report.

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