Heading into the World Junior Championship, Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka was a little concerned with how one of their prized prospects, Clayton Keller, would perform. Keller played just three games before the tournament after suffering a knee injury in November. It would have been understandable if he had trouble finding consistency against the best players in the world his age.
It didn’t take long for Chayka’s concerns to disappear.
“I liked him a lot,” Chayka said of Keller when we chatted. “He was engaged, he was creating and when other teams started to try and focus on him to shut him down, he was able to adapt and adjust his game to find time and space.”
In all, he finished with 11 points in seven games, a point total topped only by Kirill Kaprizov and Alexander Nylander.
Keller also left the tournament with a gold medal.
When it was done, he heard from a lot of people offering up congratulations, but one that stood out the most to him was from Max Domi, his future teammate, and proud Canadian.
"Max Domi shot me a text and said, congratulations and hopefully I’ll see him soon,” Keller relayed when we chatted Monday.
Based on what transpired in the tournament, Domi won’t have to wait long for his future teammate, but he’s not the closest Team USA player to being NHL-ready. Here’s a look at the five Americans from the gold medal WJC team closest to making an NHL impact: