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Top picks Keller, Chychrun highlight Coyotes’ draft haul

 

Jacob Chychrun of the Sarnia Sting was selected by the Arizona Coyotes in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo, NY on Friday June 24, 2016. Photo by Aaron Bell/CHL Images

Clayton Keller went into the NHL Draft ranked No. 9 by NHL Central Scouting.

When the Arizona Coyotes stepped to the podium June 24 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y., they grabbed the U.S. National Team Development Program forward with the seventh overall pick.

Where Keller plays next season may be a tug of war between the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires and NCAA Division I Boston University, but all signs point to the St. Louis-area native going to college in the fall.

“Right now, BU is my top choice, and I don’t see that changing,” said Keller. “I think that’s a great spot for me. Coach (David) Quinn is a great guy, and I don’t think you can go wrong with that. I think he’s one of the best coaches in obviously one of the top programs, so I’m excited.”

To go the Coyotes, a young and up-and-coming club, has Keller excited for the future.

“It’s just awesome to be a part of such a great organization,” Keller said. “Just so thankful to be picked by them, and just really excited and ready to get started. I had a good meeting with them during the Combine, and we had good talks and just getting to know each other. Yeah, I was a little shocked, but I’m just so thankful to be picked.”

Standing just 5-foot-10, Keller said he doesn’t see his size as a detriment. Instead, he has plans to use his stature in the manner of an established NHL star.

“I think that’s probably the biggest thing for me is just getting stronger and putting on a couple pounds, and I think that’s what can make me a dominant player in the NHL some day,” said Keller. “I think I’ve always been a smaller guy, so I think I’ve always had to prove myself, and just my hockey IQ and my skills are at another level. I try to compare my game to Patrick Kane. He’s probably the same height as me, and I think I can be as good as him one day.”

Two other St. Louis products were taken in the first round in Matthew Tkachuk (son of former Coyotes captain Keith Tkachuk) and Logan Brown. Tkachuk was taken sixth overall to the Calgary Flames and Brown was drafted by the Ottawa Senators at No. 11.

With their second pick of the first round, Arizona made a trade with the Detroit Red Wings to move up from No. 20 and get the No. 16 pick and veteran forward Pavel Datsyuk. Pick No. 20, pick No. 53 (second round) and forward Joe Vitale went to Detroit and the Coyotes chose Sarnia Sting (OHL) defenseman Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun, a Boca Raton, Fla., native, registered 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games with Sarnia, which led all team defensemen and was fourth among OHL blueliners. He played with Canada at the World Under-18 Championship and had a goal and four points in seven games. Chychrun signed with the Coyotes on July 30.

The Coyotes added three players on the second day of the draft in North Bay Battalion (OHL) defenseman Cam Dineen (third round, 68th overall), Oakville Blades (Ontario Junior Hockey League) defenseman Patrick Kudla (sixth round, 158th overall) and Portage Terriers (Manitoba Junior Hockey League) defenseman Dean Stewart in the seventh round (188th overall).

Kudla is an Arizona State University recruit expected to be on campus for the 2017-18 season.

“When we first started to recruit Patrick, we felt like we were watching a legit NHL prospect,” said ASU head coach Greg Powers. “The fact he’s only been playing defense for two years speaks to his potential as an incredibly dynamic offensive defenseman.”

In addition, Arizona acquired defenseman Anthony DeAngelo from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for the team’s second-round draft choice (37th overall).

Chychrun photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images

– Matt Mackinder