Forum Buzz: Keller’s Value With Kessel, Horvat’s Ceiling, & Keeper Decisions

Rick Roos



Welcome back to “Forum Buzz,” a monthly column where I weigh in on some of the most active or heavily debated threads from the past month on the DobberHockey Forums. Pretty much anything within the forums might be covered, other than trades and signings, which usually will get their own separate write-ups on the main site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings, or questions relating solely to salary cap issues, which is the domain of Alex McClean’s weekly Capped column). It’s been a longer than usual wait due to Bubble Keeper Week, so let’s get down to business!


Topic #1 – What does 2019-20 hold in store for Clayton Keller, and will the arrival of Phil Kessel help or hurt him?

After an age 19 rookie season that saw him post 65 points, Keller slumped to just 47 in 2018-19 despite similar ice times and SOG. Some might view that as a step in the wrong direction; but I think it’s more accurately a buy-low opportunity, as his IPP and team shooting percentage were both well below his rookie numbers, so much so that had they been on a par with 2017-18 he’d have likely scored 60-65+ yet again. Something else that shouldn’t be ignored is Keller getting those 65 points in a season before age 20, since if we go back to 2000-01 only three other players (Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Sidney Crosby) managed to score at least that many points as a teen. To me, that’s a hugely telling statistic, as Kane and Crosby have gone on to become superstars and Matthews looks to be headed down that same path.


What Keller needed are players who could help make the team better and fuel the offense. And say what you want about Kessel’s effort level or off-ice habits, he has found ways to score at all stages throughout his now 13 seasons career, whether it was initially as a 30+ goal, 300+ SOG sniper for lowly Toronto teams or as a 200-250 SOG, point per game, pass first PP specialist for recent Pittsburgh squads. Is it possible Kessel was being propped up somewhat by the strong Pittsburgh team around him? Perhaps to some extent, although it’s difficult to ignore the fact that in posting 36 and 42 PPPts in his last two seasons he became one of just three players (Nikita Kucherov and Claude Giroux being the others – note no other Pens on the list) to tally 36+ PPPts in consecutive seasons dating back to 2010-11.


Kessel being a PP