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Get to know a draft pick — Clayton Keller

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Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer and prospect expert at The Hockey News.

Clayton Keller (C)

Height: 5-foot-10 Weight: 168 pounds Shoots: Left

Team: U.S. Under-18 team (USHL)

Country: U.S.

NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 8 North American skater

Kennedy says: “Keller is this year’s candidate for ‘player most likely to force GMs to think about size bias.’

“The top-10 has not been kind to players under 5-foot-11, but Keller was a dynamo for Team USA this season and had some of his best games against bigger, stronger college competition. A Boston University commit, Keller has high-end skill, great hockey smarts and most importantly, excellent consistency.

“The big battle for him will come later this summer, as his junior rights are held by the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Keller’s best bud, Logan Brown, plays for the Spits and Windsor hosts the Memorial Cup next year, so they’ll make a huge push to win his services.”

Related: Could the Blue Jackets really trade the third overall pick?

Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles.

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    Jets re-sign Hutchinson — two years, $2.3 million


    The Winnipeg Jets re-upped with RFA goalie Michael Hutchinson on Tuesday, signing him to a two-year, $2.3 million extension with a $1.15M average annual cap hit.

    Hutchinson, 26, gets a tidy raise with the deal — he made $575,000 annually on his last one — despite struggling through a sophomore slump in 2015-16. He went 9-15-3 with a .907 save percentage and 2.84 GAA, numbers well off his rookie totals — though, to be fair, the Jets struggled across the board last season, and that may have been slightly reflective in Hutchinson’s numbers.

    This deal will certainly make for an interesting dynamic in Winnipeg this season. Ondrej Pavelec is heading into the last of his lengthy deal (at $3.9M per) while Connor Hellebuyck, the club’s goalie of the future, got a taste of the NHL last season and could be back for another.

    There’s a legitimate all three could compete for starts this season, which could be something to monitor. Rarely do three-headed goalie situations work — or last long — and there remains the possibility of Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff buying out Pavelec, and going with Hutchinson and Hellebuyck.

    Wild getting trade calls on Kuemper


    Minnesota knew it would probably have to part with Darcy Kuemper this offseason.

    And now it sounds like the move is getting closer.

    On Monday, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher admitted he’s started to receive trade calls on the 26-year-old ‘tender but, per the Pioneer Press, is still “a little hesitant” to trade him.

    Kuemper has spent his entire professional career with the Wild organization and, at one time, was considered the club’s goalie of the future.

    Things certainly looked that way in 2013-14, when he went 12-8-4 with a .915 save percentage and 2.43 GAA during the regular season, and 3-1-0 with a .913 save percentage and 2.03 GAA in the playoffs.

    But Kuemper struggled to reclaim that form in ’14-15, which forced Fletcher to acquire Devan Dubnyk — and all Dubnyk’s done since the trade is revive his career, and become a major workhorse for the Wild.

    Dubnyk started 66 games this season, the first of his six-year, $26 million deal. Because he’s the clear-cut No. 1 in Minnesota and projects to be for a while, it’s not surprising Kuemper has been the subject of trade calls.

    But it’s also not surprising to hear Fletcher has some reservations.

    Dubnyk turns 31 next season, and could probably stand a lighter workload moving forward. That could be a good fit for Kuemper, who had some really nice stretches this season — especially in December and January — and since he’s a pending RFA, the Wild do have some club control over his contract, which is important given their financial situation.

    That said, Kuemper’s made it clear he wants to try and land a starting opportunity, something that’s unlikely to happen in Minnesota.

    So all signs still point to Fletcher pulling the trigger on a move.

    “From that standpoint, I think it would behoove us to look around and see what value we could find in him,” Fletcher told the Pioneer Press back in April. “If there’s a deal that makes sense for us and allows him to get a better opportunity, I think that would be good for both of us.”

    Trade: Sharks acquire ‘big, skilled center’ Letunov from Coyotes

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    One of the prospects acquired by Arizona’s old GM has been shipped out by the new one.

    Maxim Letunov, the key piece acquired in last year’s deadline deal that sent Zbynek Michalek to St. Louis, has been sent to the Sharks for a pair of draft picks.

    Arizona also sent a ’17 sixth-rounder to San Jose in the deal.

    Former Coyotes GM Don Maloney had rave reviews for Letunov upon acquiring him in March of ’15, calling him a “big, skilled center with excellent upside.”

    The 20-year-old Russian, taken 52nd overall by the Blues in ’14, went on to have a good freshman campaign at UConn — 40 points in 36 games, Making the Hockey East All-Rookie team — but was still sent packing by new ‘Yotes GM John Chayka, who received San Jose’s fourth-rounder this year and a third-rounder in ’17, which was originally a Red Wings pick.

    It’s pretty clear how much Chayka values draft selections. Earlier, he opted not to sign former first-round pick Conner Bleackley to an ELC, instead taking the compensatory pick (53rd overall) at this year’s draft.

    Bleackley had been acquired by Maloney as part of the Mikkel Boedker-to-Colorado trade.

    With today’s deal, the Coyotes now have eight picks at this year’s draft, including four in the top 53.

    Get to know a draft pick — Tyson Jost

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    Like we’ve done in the past, we’re profiling top prospects who may hear their names called in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

    But this year, something new — we’re featuring special guest analysis from Ryan Kennedy, associate senior writer and prospect expert at The Hockey News.

    Tyson Jost (C)

    Height: 5-foot-11 Weight: 191 pounds Shoots: Left

    Team: Penticton Vees (BCHL)

    Country: Canada

    NHL Central Scouting ranking: No. 16 North American skater

    Kennedy says: “Those unfamiliar with Jr. A hockey out west may not realize how competitive it is. Jost, a University of North Dakota commit, absolutely demolished the circuit to the tune of more than two points per game.

    “He’s a powerful skater with a great shot, excellent hands and man-strength already. An upper-body injury prevented him from fully contributing in the BCHL playoffs, but he recovered in time to play for Canada at the world under-18s, where he led a CHL-dominated team (and the tournament) in scoring, breaking Connor McDavid’s record for points by a Canadian in the tournament.

    “Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

    Related: Watch out for the Carolina Hurricanes

    Click here for all the 2016 NHL Draft profiles.