Two weeks after he played his last game in a University of Maine uniform in a Hockey East quarterfinal game in Boston, defenseman Brady Keeper could find himself playing a game across town Saturday.
Keeper and the Florida Panthers are scheduled to play the Boston Bruins at 1 p.m. at TD Garden.
The 22-year-old Keeper, who recently signed a two-way contract with the Panthers, made his NHL debut in a 5-2 win at Ottawa on Thursday night. He was named the game’s third star.
Former UMaine All-America defenseman and Panthers associate head coach Jack Capuano said Keeper turned in a solid performance.
“I was impressed with his poise. There’s no panic in his game,” Capuano said. “As the game went on, he started to show more of his skill and his offensive instincts.”
Keeper opted to go pro two days after Northeastern ended UMaine’s season with a 2-1 Hockey East quarterfinal victory at Matthews Arena. The sophomore reportedly received a $92,500 signing bonus.
Keeper, who will earn $950,000 per year at the NHL level and $70,000 if sent to the minor leagues, joined the Panthers right after signing and practiced with them until getting his first game action in Ottawa.
The native of Cross Lake, Manitoba, became the first member of the Pimickikamak Cree Nation to reach the NHL. He participated in a ceremonial puck drop on Thursday because Ottawa dedicated the game to Truth and Reconciliation, celebrating First Nations, Intuit and Metis communities.
Keeper played 18 shifts Thursday encompassing 12 minutes, 40 seconds of ice time. He did not register a point but had one shot on goal, two hits and one blocked shot.
“I was really pleased with the back end [defense]. He went back hard to get pucks for the breakout,” Capuano said. “I liked the way he snapped his passes, and he has a good stick, good hands and a good shot. He made plays. And he has tremendous hockey sense.”
Capuano said Keeper has been coachable.
“I like guys who engage you in conversation and ask questions,” Capuano said. “He wants to learn.”
Keeper was UMaine’s third-leading scorer this season with 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists). He was an All-Hockey East third-team selection. He concluded his career with 13 goals and 31 assists in 73 games.
Keeper won’t know until Saturday morning whether he will be in the lineup for the Bruins game.