By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The 2019-20 minor-pro hockey season was to be Boston Bruins prospect goaltender Kyle Keyser’s first year of professional hockey after a stellar Canadian Hockey League career in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals. He was signed as a free agent by Boston shortly after the Las Vegas Knights waiver claim of Malcom Subban in a seemingly insurance policy move and addition to the NHL Bruins depth in goal. Keyser’s final season with Oshawa before signing an entry-level contract with the B’s saw him have a career-high 32-8–3 regular season with a 2.75 goals-against-average and .915 save percentage. Kyle’s final year of junior hockey also came with two unfortunate head injuries which history wouldn’t help in the upcoming year.
Last season due to another concussion he was limited to six games with the Providence Bruins (1-4-2) and appeared in one game with the former Boston “AA” affiliate the Atlanta Gladiators. With the ECHL shutting down everything in mid-March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the one-year agreement with the Gladiators team was officially over. Although both the NHL Bruins and Atlanta franchise were heavily rumored to be in talks of another agreement, both sides had to walk away as the Gladiators would opt out much like so many others did for the 2020-21 ECHL return to play.
Without a “AA” minor-pro affiliate for this season, the Boston Bruins reached out to the Jacksonville Icemen to house some Bruins players of interest who might be under entry-level deals or one-year AHL only contracts. There’s been no official word word from the Boston Bruins of an ECHL affiliation but it seems odd to me that the transactions when a player is sent to the Sunshine State is considered a reassignment and not a loan.
Keyser’s arrival to the Jacksonville team started on a rocky slate as he and fellow teammates haven’t exactly played much since mid-March last year. Let’s just say there was some major rust with this Icemen team and defensive mistakes leading to bad bounces hindered the team from climbing the South Division standings early on in the season.
Kyle’s first five games where certainly a roller coaster of sorts winless in that duration and posting 3.4 GAA and .892 save% numbers. He’s since then changed the complexity of his game and mission to get back into game shape and mid-season form. He’s started the last five straight games for the Icemen and in his last four games his numbers have completely tailed spinned in a whole different direction with a 1.25 GAA and .957 Save %. Keyser got his first victory of the season when he gave up two in an overtime win against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and second and most recent victory was a 4-1 commanding game against the South Carolina Sting Rays in regulation.
Tonight Keyser was on top of his game and really put the Jacksonville club on his back but it would eventually all end late in the third period where the Swamp Rabbits put on some late pressure that Keyser and the Icemen couldn’t contain. Tonight’s late game loss was a tough one as Kyle was looking for his first consecutive win of the season. Regardless of minimal wins you see on the stat sheet, if you have the opportunity to subscribe to the FloSports Network to see this ECHL action.
The undrafted goaltender is dialing his game in nicely for the remaining 23 games and he’s picking a good time to get hot. With a majority of these remaining games on the regular season schedule back-to-backs due to the limited travel Keyser could earn a majority of these games moving forward with his recent play. From what I’ve seen in the last four games watching film is he’s following the path of tutelage laid down from Boston Bruins goaltending coaches Bob Essensa and Mike Dunham that you don’t have to be overly active in the crease. Minimize your movements with your athletisizm and concern yourself more with square to the puck posture and puck tracking abilities.
The next game for the Jacksonville team is a week from today as the Icemen travel to South Carolina to play the Sting Rays. The team from Florida is currently in the sixth position in the Eastern Conference with a 6-9-1 record in 17 games this season. they’re 4-5-1 in their last ten games. The South Carolina team with Jacksonville faces next sits in third place in the East with a 9-4-4 record and 5-3-2 in their last ten games.