ARIZONA COYOTES

Clayton Keller finding ‘second wind’ as Coyotes’ standout rookie

Mar 13, 2018, 11:37 PM
Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) scores against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell...
Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) scores against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell (1) during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Clayton Keller was on a tear in October. He seems to be doing well in March, too.

The in-between didn’t have the headline-making, goal-scoring performances that earned Keller the Rookie of the Month honors in his first month in the league with nine goals and 15 points. But after tallying 12 points total in the months of January and February, Keller already has six points in seven March contests.

One of those six points was a goal that he scored on Tuesday night, marking the Coyotes’ first of the game in a win against the LA Kings and Keller’s second goal in four games.

“We know how great he played at the start of the year,” Coyotes assistant coach John MacLean said, filling in as the team’s head coach as Rick Tocchet takes a leave of absence. “Like any young guy, you’re going to hit a little bit of a wall every once in a while. But you know what, Clayton’s a fun kid to watch. I know Toc’ talks about a ‘hockey nerd,’ he’s always looking at you to go out on the ice.

“He gets mad, he gets frustrated, but he always wants to do well.”

Don’t look now, but Keller might have his swagger back.

The 19-year-old began the year as one of the top Calder Trophy favorites, though the New York Islanders’ Mat Barzal has all but run away with that race with less than a month to go in the year. But the Boston University product is fourth among NHL rookies in points scored as the Coyotes have 13 games to go.

And even still, the Coyotes aren’t evaluating Keller based on whether he’ll collect accolades in his rookie season. They’ll evaluate him based on what they see from him on the ice, and on Tuesday night, the Coyotes and their fans saw Keller take a pass from Derek Stepan in space to the right of the net and fire a shot past Jack Campbell to give Arizona a 1-0 lead.

He also scored later in the shootout.

“He’s going to be a great player in this league,” MacLean said. “He’s continuing to play extremely well right now. I think he found his second wind, understanding what it takes night-in, night-out. If he keeps that — which I think he will, his work ethic and the type of kid he is — he’s going to be a star in this league.”

With his goal Tuesday, he became the third rookie in team history to reach the 50-point mark when he scored his 19th goal of the season on Tuesday night.

But of course, the humble Keller said the 50-point milestone wasn’t meaningful to him.

“I think we’re playing well,” Keller said. “Focus on the team, we’re winning hockey games, so that’s the best thing.”

Penguin Air
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill, right, makes a save on a shot by Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder (10) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) sends Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) to the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes center Nick Cousins (25) celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Kings with left wing Max Domi, second from left,, defenseman Kevin Connauton, second from right, and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes center Nick Cousins (25) celebrates his goal with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), center Brad Richardson, left, and others as Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell (1) and defenseman Derek Forbort (24) look away during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings left wing Tanner Pearson (70) celebrates his goal against the Arizona Coyotes with defenseman Derek Forbort (24) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes center Christian Dvorak (18) celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Kings with Jakob Chychrun (6) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder (10) takes out Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell, right, gets to the puck before Arizona Coyotes left wing Max Domi (16) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes right wing Richard Panik (14) and Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown (23) get tangled up and neither are able to get to the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings center Tobias Rieder (10) passes the puck as Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers (55) tries to get past Rieder during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) scores the game winner against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell (1) during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli (73) shoots wide of Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) celebrates his first NHL win with left wing Max Domi (16) after a shootout of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings left wing Adrian Kempe (9) scores against Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill, left, during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill (31) makes a save on a shot by Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) scores against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell (1) during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) sends the puck past Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill, right, as Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8) collides with Hill and defenseman Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) during overtime of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference, and the Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) collides with Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill, middle, during overtime of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes assistant coach John MacLean looks up the scoreboard during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. MacLean was the head coach for the game due to the absence of head coach Rick Tocchet for family reasons, but the Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) scores against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell (1) during a shootout of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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