Coyotes' Keller loved the Blues' Cup run

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Coyotes' Keller loved the Blues' Cup run

Post by admin » Thu Jan 02, 2020 8:30 am

He donned an Arizona Coyotes’ jersey Tuesday night against the Blues. But from the rink at U.S. Ice in Fairview Heights, to the old Chesterfield ice complex, to the AAA Blues, Clayton Keller is St. Louis through and through.

Growing up in Swansea, near Belleville, Keller went to Blues games whenever he could.

“All the time,” Keller said. “My dad had season tickets, and I would either go with him or my grandpa and watch as many games as I could. I loved going.”

The tickets came from his father’s work, so they were prime — four rows behind one of the nets.

“So I’d just follow closely,” Keller said. “I could see the whole ice. It was great.”

His favorite players? Then-Blues Barret Jackman and Keith Tkachuk.

Tkachuk also coached him growing up.

“That was pretty cool,” Keller said. “I played with both of his kids (Matthew and Brady), so I know him real well.”

Keller went on to become one of the “St. Louis 6,” the six St. Louis area players selected in the 2016 NHL draft. Matthew Tkachuk (No. 6 overall), Keller (No. 7), Logan Brown (No. 11), Luke Kunin (No. 15), and Trent Frederic (No. 28) all went in the first round. Joseph Woll was taken in the third round.

“I think back then, none of us would’ve imagined this, that all of us would’ve made it,” Keller said. “But yeah, I just give thanks to the guys who got us here — Jeff Brown, Keith Tkachuk, Jordan Janes, Al MacInnins. The list goes on and on of all the guys that really helped out the AAA Blues program and got us to where we are today.”

So short of winning the Cup with the Coyotes, Keller couldn’t have been happier seeing his hometown Blues win the Stanley Cup last June over the Boston Bruins.

“It was awesome for the city to get a Stanley Cup,” Keller said. “The buzz around there was crazy and even more so now. It’s awesome.”

Keller watched all but one of the Blues’ playoff games from home. The one exception? In the Stanley Cup Final against Boston, he watched from the stands at Enterprise Center with younger brother Jake.

“I must have brought bad luck,” Keller said. “They lost like 6-1 or something.”

So that would’ve been either Game 3, a 7-2 loss by Blues. Or Game 6, a 5-1 defeat.

But the “bad luck” didn’t stick in Game 7, as you may recall.

Still only 21, Keller signed an eight-year, $57.2 million contract extension in September. Not bad for a kid from Swansea.

The Coyotes haven’t made the playoffs in seven seasons. But they definitely have the look of a young, up-and-coming team bolstered by the additions of established veterans Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall.

“We’re a very fast team and we want to be responsible in the defensive zone,” Keller said. “Usually when you’re responsible back there, it leads to chances in the offensive zone. So I think we’re fast, and obviously good goaltending. And we have some skill. A lot of guys with skill actually. So it’s a fun team to be a part of it.”

Keller, a right winger, was second on the Coyotes in points (29) entering Tuesday’s game, with 10 goals and 19 assists. He made the NHL All-Star Game last season and is Arizona’s candidate for “last men in” this year.

Now in his third full NHL season, Keller’s game still has room to grow.

“Definitely. Always learning, always getting better each day,” he said. “You learn so much and obviously being around such great players now in Phil (Kessel) and “Hallsie” (Taylor Hall) and Oliver-Ekman-Larsson — all the leadership guys have really helped me out a lot.

“They took me under their wing. We have a lot of young guys here, so we kinda all hang out and have a good relationship with everyone. It’s probably the closest team that I’ve been on.”

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