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Clayton Keller breaks Coyotes rookie points record in win over Sabres

Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller celebrates his goal against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

For all that has gone wrong with the Arizona Coyotes this season, at least one thing has gone right.

The play of rookie Clayton Keller has added some optimism to the team’s future, as he adds a much-needed scoring boost to a forward group that has lacked offensive firepower.

Keller’s two assists in the Coyotes’ 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday brought his point total on the season to 55. That bests Peter Mueller’s 54 in the 2007-08 season that was the previous high tally for a Coyote in their rookie season.

The 19-year-old’s 35 assists are also a Coyotes rookie record.

The Coyotes got on the board early thanks to Dylan Strome on the power play. Strome’s shot off Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson made it 1-0 in the early first period.

After Buffalo would answer in the mid-first period, Derek Stepan scored the team’s second power play goal, assisted by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keller, to make it 2-1 in the late first period.

A scoreless second would be followed by Richard Panik’s 10th goal of the season in the third period, assisted by Stepan and Keller.

Max Domi’s empty-netter would seal a win that made it seven victories for the Coyotes in March, the team’s highest win total for a month with six games still remaining in March.

Keller’s scoring promise fills a hole that has been present for quite some time in Coyotes hockey. In this decade, the Coyotes have had only two instances of a player scoring at least 25 goals in a season. Shane Doan tallied 28 goals in the 2015-16 season and Radim Vrbata had 35 in the 2011-12 season.

The 55 points for Keller, in fact, tie the highest point total for a Coyote in the previous two seasons. Radim Vrbata had 55 points last season and Oliver Ekman-Larsson hit that same number the year prior.

If Keller was to record at least one point in the Coyotes’ nine remaining games, it would be the most points by a member of the Coyotes since the 2011-12 season, when Ray Whitney notched 77 points and Vrbata had 62.

Keller could very well hit 60 points, and that would make him only the 11th player in Coyotes history to do so. He would join Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Gartner, Daymond Langkow, Daniel Briere, Mike Johnson, Mike Comrie, Whitney, Vrbata and Doan.

Not bad for a rookie.

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