The Florida Panthers have signed college free agent Brady Keeper to a two-year entry-level contract. Keeper just finished his sophomore season at the University of Maine, but will give up his final two years of eligibility in order to jump to the professional level. The deal will begin this season, and GM Dale Tallon expressed his excitement about bringing in the young defenseman:
Brady is a promising puck-moving defenseman who possesses strong offensive instincts and plays a physical game. 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 and continue to grow his game.
Keeper, 22, was a star in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League before going to Maine, recording big point and big penalty minute totals as part of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) Blizzard. Back in 2016, Sam Laskaris of Windspeaker.com reported that Keeper, who is Cree, was recruited by several teams in the NCAA and USHL but decided on Maine because of goalie coach Alfie Michaud, a former First Nations (Ojibwe) professional hockey player himself.
The 6’2″ defenseman may have toned down his rough play somewhat since his first few years of junior, but Keeper still doesn’t shy away from engaging physically. That’s just a part of his well-rounded game now though, one which resulted in 44 points across 73 games in his collegiate career. He’ll jump into a Panthers organization that has plenty of depth on defense but has shown a willingness to give young players an opportunity at the NHL level.