The Arizona Coyotes plan to sign highly-touted prospect Clayton Keller as soon as the NCAA season ends, reports the USAToday’s Kevin Allen. The Coyotes drafted Keller seventh overall in the 2016 Entry Draft but have not yet inked him to a contract. Keller currently plays for Boston University in NCAA Division I hockey.
Keller is having a stellar year so far. The 18 year-old has 19G and 21A in 28 games for Boston University as a rookie. More importantly career-wise, however, was Keller’s performance at the World Junior Championships for Team USA. He scored 3G and 8A in seven games on his way to a gold medal and being named a tournament all-star. His success against his peers bodes well for his future in the NHL
Keller’s stock rose dramatically since draft day, and that gives the young American prospect additional leverage to negotiate for bonuses in his ELC. Coyotes GM John Chayka told USAToday that Keller would’ve played in the AHL and given NHL stints as roster spots opened up. That may not sounds like much, but only six players from the 2016 NHL draft have played in the NHL this year, and only four have played for most of the season.
The Coyotes may be anxious to sign Keller after seeing how the Nashville Predators lost Jimmy Vesey through college free agency. Vesey, a 2nd round pick for Nashville, played in the NCAA for four years after being drafted, and chose to pursue free agency instead of sign with the Predators. Nashville’s rights to Vesey—traded to the Buffalo Sabres in the summer—expired on August 15th, and Vesey signed with the New York Rangers.