Vancouver Canucks 2016 NHL Draft Profile: C Clayton Keller

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; A general view of the podium on stage before the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks are preparing for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft — and so are we.

Unfortunately, the 2015-16 season was cut short for the Vancouver Canucks, which means we have a long offseason ahead of us. Canucks GM Jim Benning and his staff will use the time to prepare next season’s roster, and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will certainly play an important part in that process.

Vancouver started off strong in the fall of 2015 but ended the season with a thud. Thanks to their abysmal 28th rank in the league standings, the Canucks own seven picks early in each round. Benning did a great job in his first two years at the job and another successful draft could certainly help boost the rebuild.

Here at The Canuck Way, we will do our best to prepare you for the upcoming event by profiling as many draft-eligible players as we possibly can. Keep in mind that we are not saying these are players the Canucks are targeting. Instead, these are players that we think theCanucks could or should have interest in.

Today we look at centre Clayton Keller, from the US National Under-18 Team.

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Name: Clayton Keller

Position: Center

Shoots: Left

Height, weight: 5’10”, 170 lbs

Team/League: US National Under 18 Team, USDP

Stats (from







NHL CSS Ranking: 9th (North American Skaters)

Risk, Reward: 2/5, 4.5/5

NHL-potential: Top-Six Center

Draft Range: Mid-First Round

Scouting report

"Clayton Keller is an excellent player who has the skills, brain, competitiveness and confidence to not only impact the game, but to also dictate significant portions of offensive play. The U.S. NTDP centre has panorama vision – there is no play he doesn’t see and he is always dangerous even when it may appear that he isn’t. Keller controls the game and brings out the best abilities of those he plays with. — Craig Button, TSN"


Clayton Keller is a small player with big-time scoring talent. A strong skater with good acceleration and deceptive lateral movement, Keller is able to beat defensemen off the rush with quick feet. While he is not the fastest skater available, he combines competent speed with agility to find openings in the offensive zone.

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Clayton Keller has put up points at a lightning-fast pace with US National Development team. In fact, his points-per-game is third all-time in that program, behind only presumptive first-overall pick Auston Matthews and Pittsburgh Penguins phenom Phil Kessel.

His high goal and assist totals show that he can be both a playmaker and a sharpshooter. His wrist shot in particular is highly accurate, and Keller can release it quickly at top speed or at a standstill.

Keller is arguably an even better passer than he is a shooter; his creativity and vision allow him to create space for himself and find open teammates. This past season, Keller averaged over one assist per game. The lack of hype surrounding this player is surprising given how dynamic he has been on offense.

Do not look away when Clayton Keller is on the ice. The puck follows him around wherever he goes, and his talent is irrepressible.


With Clayton Keller, most of the question marks revolve around his stature. It is one thing to score against 17-year-olds, but can the smallish Keller succeed against top defense pairings in the NHL?

His chances of NHL success will greatly improve if Keller works on his core strength, which scouts point out as a potential weakness. Progress in this area will allow him to stay on his feet longer and continue protect the puck without being knocked around by bigger defenders.

Keller also needs to be better along the boards and in the corners. In full-flight Keller has defenders at his mercy; in cycle play Keller will find himself at a disadvantage.

Hard work in the gym and continued physical growth as he enters his 20s should keep Keller on track for the NHL.

Final Thoughts

Having just dealt another smaller center in Jared McCann, and with a number of potential NHL centers already in the organization — Cole Cassels, Dmitri Zhukenov, and the newly-signed Yan-Pavel Laplante — will the Vancouver Canucks feel the need to draft the  5-foot-10 Keller?

Clayton Keller, mind you, is far more talented offensively than Cassels, Zhukenov, or Laplante. Then again, so was the now-departed McCann.

In any case, with the fifth pick, Keller is out of reach for Jim Benning — there are too many prospects with more upside who will need less development time.

Should the Canucks trade down, it seems likely that Keller’s size will disadvantage him in the eyes of Vancouver brass, especially given the position he plays. The overall trend in Vancouver is away from smaller offensive talents and toward bigger, more well-rounded players.

Next: More 2016 Draft Profiles

But someone, somewhere will have to score goals for the Canucks once the Sedins are no longer available to carry the team. Size is all well and good, but it is talent that drives results. If the Canucks want to be a team that scores goals in four years, they need to take players with proven talent to do just that.

Clayton Keller happens to be a player with just such a talent.