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BUFFALO — Kyle Keyser will return to Boston on Monday night and has a chance of being in net next Sunday when the Bruins open their North American exhibition season at the Garden against the Capitals.

But for now, the larger plan for Keyser, 19, is to return to OHL Oshawa for at least another season, and he likely won’t be back on Causeway Street until the names Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak (on the books for a combined salary of nearly $10 million) are no longer cut-and-pasted into the Boston lineup. Keyser’s wait could be two years or more.

Keyser, signed by the Bruins last October to a three-year contract after accepting an invite here to the 2017 Prospects Challenge, is nothing if not persistent. He grew up just outside Fort Lauderdale, Fla., dreaming of being an NHL goalie, and only last summer he shopped his way through development camps with the Sabres and Blackhawks, hoping to gin up some interest among the pros.

Buffalo and Chicago didn’t bite. But the Bruins, aware when Keyser was invited here that they could lose former first-round pick Malcolm Subban to Vegas — a chance that became reality on the eve of the 2017-18 season — were sold on Keyser’s quickness, poise, and maturity. In terms of service, age, and experience, Zane McIntyre is considered Boston’s top goaltender in waiting, but Keyser is clearly gaining a higher profile in the organization.


“Every day I am out here, I am trying to impress the people upstairs,” Keyser said Friday night after backing Boston’s 4-2 win over Pittsburgh in the opening game of the rookie round-robin tourney. “I want to show them that I am working hard and getting better . . . that’s all I care about. I’m not taking things easy because of [the contract]. I’m just trying to build off of it and prove more.”


Keyser, backed to a 4-0 lead by early in the second period, finished with 35 saves against the Penguins’ prospects.

Keyser, born and raised in Coral Springs, Fla., grew up a Panthers fan, introduced to the game by his slightly older brother, Spencer.

“He was always around the rink,” recalled Kyle, whose brother, long out of organized hockey, is now studying for a master’s in wildlife biology at the University of Texas. “So I was around the rink as a kid, and just kind of took it on and I ran from there.”

Former Bruins goalie Rob Tallas, about to enter his 10th season as the Panthers’ netminding coach, was among Keyser’s first instructors, with Keyser at age 5 already setting the NHL as his career goal. Tallas, now 45, began instructing around Coral Springs upon wrapping up his pro career in Europe in 2005.

“He was huge in my development and getting me to where I am,” said Keyser. “Obviously, his being an ex-Bruin makes it kind of neat that I end up signing here. He worked at our local rink, and I got involved in lessons with him . . . I’m just thankful for him.”

Florida, hardly a hockey hotbed even today, offered Keyser ample game action as a kid, though quality of play often lacked. Tournament trips to more traditional markets, such as Boston and stops in Michigan, offered higher-caliber competition.

“I go down there now and I see the progress that’s been made — it’s eye-opening and exciting,” said Keyser, whose parents remain in Florida. “You see more kids playing and more kids who are going to move on from Florida hockey. It’s great for the community . . . it was hard to get good competition sometimes . . . and sometimes we’d get pummeled. But that’s just part of the way it is. It helped me become the goalie I am, getting 40 shots a night instead of just standing there.”


By his mid-teens, Keyser moved north to pursue his career more aggressively. He and his mom, Kimberly, moved to Minnesota so he could have a full season of instruction, and then on to Michigan for two years of AAA hockey, leading to his OHL draft year.

Keyser considered going the college route but opted for the OHL, two seasons of which ultimately paid off with his contract (potentially worth $2.1 million) with the Bruins. His only guarantee is $150,000 in signing bonuses, and the chance perhaps one day to take up permanent residence in the Hub of Hockey.

“Your buddies from school are playing different sports than you are,” said Keyser, recalling what it was like to grow up in a town where hockey isn’t part of the mainstream. “But you have your buddies that play hockey. And those are the guys you come to the rink with every single day and you grow to love each other.”

Kuhlman has speedRookie Karson Kuhlman has the speed to be a top-six NHL winger, and it just so happens the Bruins have an opening at right wing on their top two lines.

Kuhlman, less than six months from graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, formally submitted his application for the opening Saturday night with his two goals, including an empty-netter, in Boston’s 3-1 win over the Sabres in the annual Prospects Challenge.


“Donny said it best,” said Bruins coach Jay Leach, referring to his boss, GM Don Sweeney, “the kid’s like a dog on a bone.”

Kuhlman, 22, was not a prolific scorer at UMD, but he was consistent, averaging approximately 10 goals and 20 points in four seasons. Never drafted, he was a coveted free agent in the spring, and quickly came to terms with the Bruins on a two-year deal that would pay him $750,000 if he were to stick with the Black-and-Gold varsity.

It’s a better chance that Kuhlman would start the year in AHL Providence. But keep in mind, a younger rookie, Anders Bjork out of Notre Dame, won a spot on the No. 1 line last September with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It looks as if Kuhlman can match the speedy Bjork step for step and, as Sweeney noted, he has the requisite moxie to get to the net.

“It’s a great spot to be in — the culture here is unbelievable,” said Kuhlman, who attended Boston’s development camp on an invite the summer before his senior season at UMD. “They know how to win . . . and those are things I hold very high. I think it’s a place I can develop my game and hopefully take it to the next level.”

Goal for Frederic

Former Wisconsin standout Trent Frederic scored the other Boston goal, posting the Bruins to a 1-0 lead at 12:34 of the first period. Rookie Urho Vaakanainen had the primary assist on the Frederic strike and Ryan Fitzgerald set up Kuhlman’s first goal, which turned out to be the winner, with 51 seconds remaining in the first . . . Dan Vladar was the night’s first star, the Czech tender turning away 38 shots, including a laser one-timer by rookie phenom Rasmus Dahlin. As a kid back home in Prague, Vladar wanted to be a forward when he first took up the game. “But I changed after the first year because I was the worst skater on the team, and the coach wanted me to be the goalie,” he recalled. “My father didn’t like it — because the equipment was too expensive.” The 6-foot-5-inch Vladar, now 21, spent most of last season at ECHL Atlanta. He’d be a likely candidate to spend the season in Providence on a job share with McIntyre . . . Dahlin did not factor in Buffalo’s lone goal by Vasily Glotov, but he delivered as advertised as a smooth skater with great puck skills. Should make for some matchups when the Bruins and Sabres rekindle their old Adams Division rivalry . . . The cozy HarborCenter, with approximately 2,000 seats, was packed Saturday night with Sabres fans eager to get another look at star prospect Dahlin, who made his debut Friday night with two goals and an assist against the Devils. Dahlin, a puckhandling/rushing defenseman, will enter the 2018-19 season among the favorites to be named NHL Rookie of the Year. The Sabres selected the slick 6-foot-3-inch blue liner No. 1 in the June draft. With performance bonuses, he stands to earn in excess of $11 million over the three years of his entry-level contract.