Oilers' Keller a sleeper
DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
|Oilers forward Ryan Keller skates during practice. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)
EDMONTON - Ryan Keller is used to being overlooked.
Having been passed over in the WHL Bantam Draft, then the NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers prospect has made a living proving people wrong.
He went on to have four successful seasons in the WHL, scoring 40 goals for Saskatoon Blades in his final year. Keller then went on to star with the Binghamton Senators last season netting 25 points in the playoffs and scoring the Calder Cup clincher.
“I guess I took the long road, I started from the bottom up and tried to work my way up,” Keller said. “I think it makes you appreciate being here and being this close even more.”
On Tuesday, Keller, 27, suited up in his third exhibition game for the Oilers when they hosted the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Oilers are giving the Saskatoon native a long look, hoping he can provide depth to their organization and perhaps one day be a solid contributor to the club.
“He’s still here because he’s a good player,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I think Ryan in the right set of circumstances is an NHL player. I like so much of what he does, he’s a very quick player, he’s very solid on his feet, you don’t see him on the ass of his pants too often, he sees the ice extremely well and knows what to do without the puck at both ends of the ice.”
Keller’s professional journey has taken him through the United Hockey League, to the AHL, over to Finland and back to the AHL having signed with the Ottawa Senators three years ago.
The five-foot-10, 196-pound winger played six games with the Senators during the 2009-2010 season registering a point.
Last year, Keller captained their AHL affiliate to the league title scoring 32 goals and adding 19 assists for 52 points in 71 regular-season games, then adding another 10 goals and 15 assists in 23 playoff games.
“It was a good year. Any time you win a championship it’s a lot of fun and something you’ll remember forever,” Keller said. “It was a year where I think we surprised a lot of people and really came together as a group at the right time of year. We were playing our best hockey into June and we were rewarded with it.
“It was a wonderful experience.”
This summer, Keller signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Oilers. It’s expected he’ll start the season with the team’s AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City, but depending on how things play out in Edmonton, could see some time with the big club.
“I was offered a contract by Ottawa, but it was a situation where I spent two years there and I thought I proved that I could play at the NHL level and really wasn’t given an opportunity,” Keller said. “I thought it was a situation where it was best to move on and look for a different organization.
“Edmonton came to us in early July and I felt it was an opportunity to play close to home if things worked out here and if I do go down to Oklahoma City I have a relationship with (head coach) Todd (Nelson) down there. So it was kind of a win-win situation.”
Keller scored 66 goals in two seasons with Binghamton. The Oilers are hoping he can continue that production in Oklahoma City and if required, bring that scoring touch to Edmonton.
Keller has proven he can score at every level. He’s just looking for a chance to prove it at the NHL level.
“Sometimes you get boxed out and there’s a stigma that can build off of that,” Renney said. “It’s a testament to him, he’s out there every year trying to break that stigma and he’s here doing the same thing.”