NHL 2016 Draft Radar: Clayton Keller

Clayton Keller projects, by nearly all accounts, as a top-ten pick.

Arguably the best American centre in the draft after Auston Matthews, there’s plenty to like about all parts of Keller’s game.

The chances of Keller falling to the Wings is quite low, to be honest. There’s little reason why he’d fall out of the top ten… except if too many teams decide against picking the very talented centre due to, in all honesty, his small frame.

There’s a few players we’ve profiled that the Wings could take “if they’re available”, but if Keller still ends up being around when the Wings are picking, he could easily be the steal of the whole draft. 

The Stats

Putting the puck in the net is something Clayton Keller is good at. He led the US-under 18 team in scoring this past year, which says more than enough about his offensive abilities. A Boston University commit with his OHL rights belonging to Windsor, Keller is without a doubt one of the players with the most offensive talent.

The Eye Test

From scout-for-hire Jon Steitzer, who ranked Keller #4 on his list:

I have a huge appreciation for Clayton Keller and think that the player who is drawing comparisons to Mitch Marner is going to be the steal of the draft.

After Auston Matthews there’s a steep drop off when it comes to centers in the 2016 draft. Not that the next few options aren’t good, but they are having difficulty climbing into the top ten rankings in draft year that is much deeper on defensemen and power wingers.

He’s put up great numbers in the USNTDP and is one of only a few natural centers who look like surefire top six forwards. He’s equally capable as a playmaker or a finisher, who has one of the better shots in the draft.

Here’s Keller fielding questions at the NHL combine:

Sportsnet’s Damien Cox said Keller looks like he “has the puck all the time”, and this kind of puck possession game could translate well to a team that’s losing one of the best puck possession forwards of all time.

Everything about his offensive game looks to translate nicely to the NHL, and the stats back it up. There’s only one question left to ask:

Does he fit into the Red Wings?

There’s only two ways Keller would find himself in the Detroit organisation: a trade, or a serious, serious drop from his pre-draft rankings. Of course the Wings would love to end up with Keller, but they’d have to trade up somewhere between 5-10 spots to do so (a deal with the Devils, at 11?), or see Keller be “that guy” that drops much lower than most of his rankings. Wherever he goes, he’ll be a top-six talent within just a few seasons. The Wings would love to have him, of course, but the chances of him dropping that far in the draft don’t seem all that likely.