Keith Ballard (born November 26, 1982) is an American professional ice hockey defenseman who is currently a member of the Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League (NHL). He played college hockey for the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) for three seasons. After his freshman year, he was selected 11th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Before he made his NHL debut, he was traded twice – initially to the Colorado Avalanche, then to the Phoenix Coyotes. He played his professional rookie season in 2004–05 with the Coyotes' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies, then debuted with Phoenix the following season. After three years, he was traded to the Florida Panthers, where he spent two seasons before being dealt to Vancouver at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Internationally, Ballard has represented the United States in four World Championships, winning bronze in 2004. He has also played in two junior tournaments – the 2000 IIHF World U18 Championships and 2002 World Junior Championships.
Ballard played two seasons at the junior level in the United States Hockey League (USHL), initially with the United States National Development Team in 1999–00, then the Omaha Lancers the following season. He recorded 51 points over 56 games in 2000–01. With a league-leading 22 goals among defensemen, he earned First Team All-Star honors and a selection to the 2001 USHL All-Star Game. In the post-season, he helped the Lancers win the Clark Cup as league champions, notching seven points in 10 playoff games.
In 2001–02, he began a three-year tenure of college hockey with the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the WCHA, a conference within the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). He joined a defensive corps in Minnesota that included future NHL players Jordan Leopold and Paul Martin. Ballard was a much-anticipated freshman and was named the WCHA's pre-season rookie of the year. Making his collegiate debut on October 5, 2001, he notched two assists against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Ballard started his rookie campaign on a six-game point streak that included two goals and four assists. Recording 10 goals and 23 points over 41 games total as a freshman, he earned WCHA All-Rookie Team honors. In the first round of the subsequent WCHA playoffs, he scored the series-clinching goal in overtime to eliminate North Dakota. The Golden Gophers advanced to the 2002 NCAA Championships, where they captured their first of back-to-back national titles. Ballard scored the first goal of the NCAA final against the Maine Black Bears, helping Minnesota to a 4–3 win in overtime.