The 2016 NHL Entry Draft was one filled with sentiments of both anticipation and excitement. For the Arizona Coyotes, this was the chance of a lifetime. The team had the opportunity to select Scottsdale native Auston Matthews first overall. Growing up in the Arizona desert, Matthews participated in both playing and watching hockey. Prior to the draft, Auston Matthews played in the National League, the top-tier hockey league in Switzerland. As a member of the ZSC Lions, he compiled 46 points (24 goals and 22 assists) in 36 games. At the NHL Draft Lottery, the Coyotes were unable to secure the top pick; rather, they settled for the seventh overall selection. The Toronto Maple Leafs won the lottery and ultimately drafted Matthews first overall.
Following the Matthews pick, the Coyotes drafted a prospect that many teams sought: Clayton Keller. Keller, an eighteen-year-old from Swansea, Illinois, completed the 2015-16 season in the USHL as a member of the USNTDP Juniors squad; compiling 37 points (13 goals and 24 assists) in 23 games. Prior to the NHL Draft, he announced his intent to play NCAA Division I Hockey at Boston University. During the 2016-17 season, Keller produced 45 points (21 goals and 24 assists) in 31 games played for the Terriers. Clayton Keller made his NHL debut on March 27, 2017, in a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. Two nights later, he recorded his first NHL point with an assist on an Alex Goligoski goal in a 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Prior to the beginning of the 2017-18 NHL season, Clayton Keller arduously worked in hopes of securing an Opening Night roster slot. The Coyotes commenced the 2017-18 NHL season on October 5, 2017, against the Anaheim Ducks. Clayton Keller later notched his first career goal on Ducks netminder John Gibson that night. Keller finished October on a torrid pace; potting 9 goals and dishing out 6 assists in 13 games played. As of December 22, 2017, Keller currently has 26 points in 36 games.
While Keller has produced for the Coyotes, he has some stiff Calder Memorial Trophy competition. The first name to note is center Mathew Barzal. The New York Islanders selected Barzal sixteenth overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. In 35 games played, Barzal has 32 points (9 goals and 23 assists) with an Isles team loaded with offensive firepower including Josh Bailey, Andrew Ladd, Brock Nelson, and John Tavares. Islanders head coach Doug Weight has Barzal on the second line with Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle.
The second player to mention is winger Brock Boeser. The Vancouver Canucks selected Boeser twenty-third overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. In 33 games played, Boeser has produced 33 points (19 goals and 14 assists) for the rebuilding Canucks. Canucks head coach Travis Green has Boeser on the second line with Reid Boucher and Sam Gagner. Boeser was electric in November; compiling 16 points (11 goals and 5 assists) in 15 games. This performance led to the NHL naming him Rookie of the Month in November.
The third player to mention is winger Alex DeBrincat. The Chicago Blackhawks selected DeBrincat with the thirty-ninth selection in the 2016 NHL Draft. In 34 games played, DeBrincat has produced 23 points (12 goals and 11 assists) for the Blackhawks. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville currently has DeBrincat on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. Blackhawks fans should be excited to see what the former Erie Otter can bring for the future.
The fourth player to mention is defenseman Charlie McAvoy. The Boston Bruins selected McAvoy with the fourteenth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft. At the conclusion of Boston University’s season, McAvoy debuted for the Bruins during the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He managed to notch three assists in six playoff games. In 33 games played, McAvoy has produced 19 points (5 goals and 14 assists) for the Bruins. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has paired McAvoy with veteran Zdeno Chara. McAvoy has also played as a point man on the Bruins‘ second power-play unit. The Bruins hope that McAvoy continues to develop as a franchise two-way defenseman.
The fifth and final player to mention is defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. The Montreal Canadiens selected Sergachev ninth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. Sergachev played in four games with the Canadiens prior to being sent back to play with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Following the 2016-17 NHL season, Montreal sent Sergachev to Tampa Bay in exchange for forward Jonathan Drouin. Since the trade, the Lightning has greatly benefited from it. In 34 games played, Sergachev has recorded 23 points (8 goals and 15 assists). The Lightning hopes that the young blueliner can help solidify a core led by veterans Braydon Coburn, Dan Girardi, Victor Hedman, and Anton Stralman.
The Coyotes have a promising star in Clayton Keller; one whom the team should build around. Keller has quick hands and is agile on the ice. If he can improve his two-way game, then he can be dynamic for the Coyotes going forward. Who do you feel should win the Calder Trophy? Are there any names that are not mentioned that deserve a mention in another article?