Arizona Coyotes forward Clayton Keller burst onto the scene early on in his NHL career.
Known for his offense, Keller led the Coyotes in points in the first two years he played in the NHL. Keller placed third in the Calder Trophy voting as the NHL’s top rookie during the 2017-18 season.
But since his 65-point rookie season, Keller’s production has declined year over year. The lack of scoring was especially evident through the first 10 games of this season, as Keller registered just two goals and two assists.
Since Feb 6, however, it’s been a different story.
Looking at the previous five games, Keller has taken a big step forward, recording three goals, two of which were game winners, and three assists. He’s also posted four penalty minutes.
“Clayton’s a great kid. I’ve been hard on him this year. Two weeks ago we had some conversations that were tough on him but he responded,” head coach Rick Tocchet told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday. “Keller’s not the biggest guy but he’s got to play inside, he’s got to play situational hockey. He’s got to understand the right time to do things and the wrong time.”
“For these two weeks and especially the last five games, he’s doing most of the things right and that’s when you get rewarded. His battle level, you watch him and he’s getting in there and staying in there. When Keller gets in trouble he plays on the outside and he tries the fancy stuff at the wrong times. Then he gets frustrated and his effort level goes down.”
For Tocchet, the answer to Keller’s up-and-down season is simple. The forward certainly has the talent. It’s on him to make the most of his abilities when moments call for it.
“Young guys, they want to be the best. Sometimes they don’t know the path to get there,” Tocchet said. “They think other ways sometimes and I think it’s important that you find common ground with these kids to get there. He knows the path he was going he was never going to get there.
“I think he’s starting to understand he’s going to have to go down this path to be that great player he wants to be. He’ll do anything. The guy put a $50,000 shooting gallery in his house. I thought that was amazing. … It’s there, it’s just the matter of what path he wants to go on. I think he’s starting to find it.”