Former OCN Blizzard and Norman Northstars defenceman Brady Keeper signed an entry-level contract with the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers March 18.
Keeper, a member of Northern Manitoba’s Pimicikamak Cree Nation, recently completed his second season with the NCAA University of Maine Black Bears, playing 36 games and leading all of the team’s blueliners with seven goals, 15 assists and 22 points. That follows a freshman season in which the six-foot-tall, 200-pound Keeper scored six goals and set up 16 others for 22 points in 37 games. His first NCAA season also saw him record one three-point game, five two-point games and two game-winning goals, while registering 42 blocked shots and 96 shots on net.
"Brady is a promising puck-moving defenceman who possesses strong offensive instincts and plays a physical game," said Panthers general manager Dale Tallon on the team’s website. "He has been a leader for the University of Maine and found success as one of the team's top defenders. We are excited for Brady to join the Panthers."
"Brady Keeper possesses extraordinary feel for the offensive elements of the game,” said Black Bears coach Red Gendron in a press release. “He instinctively knows when to move the puck, when to hold it, where to move it, where and when to skate to space to get the puck from a teammate, and possesses an elite shot. He is a gritty competitor who defends at a very high level as well. He's earned his opportunity and did so while also being a great teammate and quiet leader. We will miss all he brought to our team, but we are also very happy for him."
Keeper played 161 games for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Blizzard over four seasons, scoring 52 goals and 81 assists for 133 points. He won the Steve “Boomer” Hawrysh MVP Award and the Brian Kozak Trophy as the league’s top defenceman and was also named a first-team all-star after the 2016-17 season that saw him score 23 goals and 25 assists in 48 games.
Keeper played one season with the midget AAA Northstars in Thompson, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 42 games in 2013-14, when he was recognized by the team for earning the most defensive player of the game citations over the course of the season. He was also a member of the Keystone Junior Hockey League’s Norway house North Stars in 2012-13, scoring six goals and 28 assists.
Keeper was one of 30 players, including 10 drafted in the 2016 and 2017 NHL drafts and nine other unsigned, undrafted camp invites, who participated in the L.A. Kings development camp in June 2017.