It’s another day and another Boston University hockey recruit that could be in the mix for the Bruins at the No. 14 spot in the first round if things break differently a couple of weeks from now at the NHL draft.
This time around the target is playmaking center Clayton Keller, rather than Charlie McAvoy, Dante Fabbro or Kieffer Bellows, and the chances are that this creative, skilled and dangerous playmaker will be long gone by Boston’s pick in the middle of the first round.
The 5-foot-10, 168-pound Keller is coming off a whopping 37 goals and 107 points in 62 games for the USNTDP Under-18 squad last season and has drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane for his quickness, clever playmaking and confidence in his own ability to keep making plays offensively in any situation.
“I definitely think I’m a top 10 pick, and I think that’s where I’ll go,” said the Illinois native, who clearly doesn't lack for confidence in himself. “I’m a guy that likes to have the puck on my stick all the time, and a guy that has good hockey sense and the ability to make players around me better. I think that’s what separates me from a lot of the other guys.”
Those skills made the 17-year-old a prized recruit for BU next season while presumably teamed up with good buddy Bellows, but Keller sounded like a young man keeping all of his options open at last week’s NHL scouting combine.
The shifty pivot was also drafted by the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL, so that remains an option should he be drafted by an organization that really pushes him toward junior hockey. Even under the best of circumstances for the Terriers, it sounded like Keller doesn’t plan on sticking around college hockey for more than a season or two before turning pro.
“Right now BU is my top choice. I’m 99 percent committed,” said Keller. “After the draft I’ll sit down with my family and my agent and go over things, but right now BU is my top choice. I don’t think that’s going to change too much. I think we want to play a fast-paced style and play in the offensive zone as much as possible [at BU], and I think that’s the playing style that fits me best: just creating and using all of my skills.
“Coach Quinn is such a good guy, and obviously the campus. Everyone there is so passionate about hockey, and I think that is awesome. I want to be at a place where they really love hockey, so I think that’s important.”
Chances are the gifted Keller won’t get a chance to enjoy Boston as an NHL destination, where they also really love hockey, based on where the Bruins are slotted to pick in the first round, but the Black and Gold can dare to dream can’t they?