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Keller vs. Crouse: Who will be the Coyotes next Captain?

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While other NHL teams are naming new captains, the Arizona Coyotes have a few options they can look at if the club decides to do the same.

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Arizona has yet to name one since defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was traded to the Vancouver Canucks two years ago.

The Boston Bruins named long-time veteran Brad Marchand after former center Patrice Bergeron retired a few weeks ago.

After former Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler was stripped of the role last year, center Adam Lowry was announced the new leader of the club.

And just yesterday, Calgary Flames introduced Mikael Backlund as the 21st in their franchise’s history.

With the arena situation and 12 out of 23 players being free agents after this season, there is a case to be made that they may prolong a captaincy search until there is more clarity around the organization.

But, if they were to be in the process of identifying someone right now, who are the prime Arizona candidates to wear the “C?”

Clayton Keller

When people think of Arizona Coyotes hockey nowadays, the first name is Clayton Keller.

The 25-year-old left-winger has been with the Coyotes since 2016 and has 342 points in 442 games.

Last season, Keller put the league on notice as he had 37 goals and 49 assists for 86 points in 82 games.

With that total, he tied the first captain in franchise history, Keith Tkachuk, for most points with in a regular season with 86. Tkachuk set the record in the Coyotes inaugural 1996-97 season.

Keller has also been through the ups and downs with the franchise with have to deal with being on a team that was rebuilding, then a playoff contender in 2019-20 and reversing back to a rebuild.

The arena situation with the ‘Yotes moving out of Glendale, playing in a college arena and no guaranteed home after this season also adds to the drama that Keller has had to endure.

It would be pretty easy to name the star player on a team a captain and a being a fan-favorite, so the choice of Keller being the new Coyotes captain is a no-brainer.

Lawson Crouse

Another player who has dealt with the same turbulence Keller has had with the “Desert Dogs” is left-winger Lawson Crouse.

After he was drafted by the Panthers 11th overall in the 2015 draft, Crouse was traded to the Coyotes, along with forward Dave Bolland, for draft picks.

From what looked like a salary dump in 2016 with Bolland out injured and was still owed $16.5 million for the next three seasons until 2019, Arizona found a gem with Crouse.

Even though the stats aren’t overwhelming with 80 goals and 75 assists in 423 career games, Crouse two-way game helps him stay in the lineup.

Standing at 6’4″ and weighing 215 lbs, he brings a physical presence to the lineup as Crouse had 194 hits and 58 blocks last season.

With a defensive mindset while also chipping in with 24 goals last campaign gives the Coyotes a player that can play all 200 ft. of ice.

The way Crouse is on and off the ice and his belief that Arizona can being a successful hockey club embodies what a future captain looks like.

How the ‘Yotes can reach the Playoffs

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Alec Cipollini is a journalist covering the Arizona Coyotes and Phoenix Rising for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his new X account @CipolliniBCS

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