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Like his team, Coyotes rookie Clayton Keller has settled in at end of season

Arizona Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) skates around Vegas Golden Knights left wing Tomas Tatar during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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As a 19-year-old rookie for the Arizona Coyotes, Clayton Keller has had experiences this season that many NHL hopefuls can only dream of.

“My first game against Sidney Crosby was definitely a ‘wow’ moment for me just because him and Patrick Kane were my favorite players growing up,” Keller said on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf Monday. “The first time playing against them I could barely skate.”

The rookie out of Boston University eventually found his skating legs, as he is leading the team with 23 goals and 63 points in his rookie campaign. Keller is coming off a stellar month of March where he tallied 19 points, earning Rookie of the Month honors.

Keller also earned Rookie of the Month honors in October, the first full month of the NHL season. The quick start put the fearlessness of the 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward on display.

“I think having a good preseason helped out,” Keller said. “I realized I could do everything that I have always done. My hockey IQ is another part where I can get myself out of trouble with bigger guys.”

While having the third-least points in the NHL is not what the Coyotes and their star rookie had hoped for, the team has played much better since the calendar has flipped to February.

After winning only 12 games in their first 50 games of the season, the Coyotes have victories in 16 of their last 29 games.

“Coming into the year we knew we were going to have some growing pains and we have such a young roster,” Keller said. “I think it’s good that we can all kind of can experience that and take it into next year to get off to a better start.”

The Coyotes have three games left this season, with the finale coming up at home on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks.

Keller, who has played in all 79 games for Arizona this season, is in the conversation for NHL Rookie of the Year.

Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser was the only other rookie to earn Rookie of the Month honors twice this season. Both Boeser and Keller trail New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal (79 points) for the rookie points lead.

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