With the Canadiens currently locked in to the ninth-overall pick in the upcoming draft, their chances of landing a player such as Alex Nylander or Pierre-Luc Dubois [profile] are low. However, there are plenty of highly skilled players likely to be available, including Clayton Keller who spent this past year in the U.S. National Team Development Program.
Birthplace: Swansea, Illinois
Height: 5'10" Weight: 170 lbs.
Keller has already committed to Boston University for next season, where he will join a talented roster including fellow 2016 Draft prospect Charlie McAvoy. Standing 5'10'' and weighing in at 170lbs he isn't the largest centre around, but makes up for this with his playmaking abilities. Keller is coming off an outstanding year in the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) where he posted 107 points in 62 games played for the under-18 team.
Scouts rave about his playmaking ability and willingness to go to the dirty areas to create offence for his team. With high-end skating and the ability to elude defenders with a great lateral step, Keller is a force to be reckoned with down the centre of the ice. Despite being highly regarded for his creativity, Keller also possesses a highly accurate shot when he chooses to utilize it. In fact, his dominant offensive season was third highest in USNTDP history in terms of points per game. Keller trails only 2016 top prospect Auston Matthews and current NHL star Phil Kessel in that category.
A small but highly dynamic playmaker that is not afraid to go to the greasy areas for a scoring chance. Has very impressive vision and ability to pick up options all over the ice while maintaining possession. Is a 100% effort player who rarely takes a shift off. Also possesses a pin-point shot that he hits his mark with when in a position to score. A very dangerous offensive player who has definite top six NHL potential.
Scott Wheeler, Pension Plan Puppets/Future Considerations
A high intensity player, Keller stands just 5' 10'' and buzzes around the ice to retrieve loose pucks or use high-end lateral movement to beat defenders wide or to the inside. He doesn't have a heavy one-timer but he can beat goalies cleanly with a hard, quick, accurate release from a standstill or in stride. His best asset, his stick handling complements his strong skating to allow him to create space for himself in the offensive zone.
Future Considerations: 9th
Central Scouting: 9th (North American Skaters)
Draft Buzz Hockey: 12th
Bob McKenzie: 10th
Draft Analysis: 8th
The majority of draft rankings have Keller going anywhere from eighth to 12th overall; right in the Canadiens' wheelhouse. A pressing need in the prospect pool is a dominant centre, with the depth limited to Lukas Vejdemo, Jake Evans, and Daniel Audette in the junior category. Landing an offensive dynamo like Keller could go a long way to shoring up that position for the future.
It's unlikely that the Canadiens will have to move up to snag him in this draft, which means Trevor Timmins gets to keep his hands on at least one more second-round pick that would probably be sacrificed in such a scenario.
While Keller isn't the largest player available, his high talent level makes him a very appealing option for the Habs, and also fills a need in the prospect pool.