Coyotes’ Clayton Keller ranks No. 1 in ESPN’s NHL prospect rankings

Aug 16, 2017, 5:55 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2017, 11:21 am
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A restructured front office and a flurry of trades around the Arizona Coyotes’ NHL Draft changed the team’s outlook for the 2017-18 season. But as far as the team’s stockpile of youngsters goes, not much is new.

The Coyotes are in a promising spot.

Corey Pronman, special to ESPN, released his top-100 NHL prospect list as of now, and two of the three Coyotes to make the list come with top-10 rankings.

Leading off the list is No. 1-ranked Clayton Keller, the 19-year-old who finished his freshman year with Boston University and joined Arizona for three games at the tail end of last season.

He was among the most dominant freshmen of the past 20 years, a top player for the gold medal-winning Team USA at the World Juniors and wrapped it up with some NHL games for Arizona. He is a dynamic playmaker who excites you anytime he’s on the ice. Keller gets plus grades with his speed and puck skills, but his hockey IQ pushes him into the top tier of players. He’s an extremely crafty playmaker who can also play on the defensive side of the puck well despite his smaller size, due to his awareness and speed. He should be a quality NHL player in 2017-18, and an early favorite for the Calder Trophy.

The center, who Arizona drafted seventh overall in 2016, scored 21 goals and added 24 assists in 31 games with Boston University before he recorded two assists in 38 minutes of ice time with the Coyotes.

Fellow Coyotes center Dylan Strome ranked sixth on Pronman’s rankings, which only includes prospects who have not played 25 games or more in any NHL season or more than 50 total in their career.

Strome, the Coyotes’ 2015 third overall pick, appeared in seven games with Arizona last year, recording one assist.

Strome got caught in CHL-NHL limbo; he wasn’t quite ready to play for the Coyotes, but when he was sent back, he cleared two points per game in the OHL. On a skills level, I haven’t seen a ton of progression from last season, but he was elite last season and remains so, even if he doesn’t seem as shiny. Strome is a tall center with incredible vision, a big shot and good puck skills. Improving his skating and strength remain key issues for him in terms of becoming a top-six forward at the NHL level, but with a big summer, it’s possible.

Also making the top-100 list is  Coyotes winger Christian Fischer, the 20-year-old who scored three goals in seven games last year.

He’s got a great skill level for a big winger, making creative plays at a pro pace, coupling that with a quality shot and a good power game. He also showed fine defensive play for an under-20 player. Improving his first few steps will be key going forward, but all signs are pointing up for Fischer.

The Coyotes drafted the now-20-year-old Fischer 32nd overall in 2015.

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Coyotes’ Clayton Keller ranks No. 1 in ESPN’s NHL prospect rankings