Suddenly, a door has blasted wide open for Kyle Keyser.
The Boston Bruins’ goalie situation over the last week has entered an interesting state of transition. Jeremy Swayman is going to get the chance to win the No. 1 goalie job out of camp, but the Bruins also signed veteran netminder Linus Ullmark to a four-year deal.
Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, still is a free agent, but the door is open for him to return, although he is not expected to be ready until at least January due to hip surgery. And with Dan Vladar getting traded, the Bruins have just Keyser and Callum Booth left to man the pipes in Providence.
Keyser is a fundamentally sound goalie but dealt with injuries in the first year of his pro career. Last season, Year 2 for the Florida native, he saw a ton of reps in the ECHL before getting promoted to Providence upon the emergence of Swayman and Vladar.
He posted a .913 save percentage in five AHL games and now he’s ready to have a full season of AHL hockey under his belt.
“I definitely feel like I’m ready for the next step,” Keyser said Tuesday at Development Camp. “It’s been a good years of development for myself, I feel like my game is right where it needs to be heading into next season for that opportunity in Providence to show them that I’m ready for a full-time season there. I think last year I made good steps coming up into Providence and playing well, we had a good team as well, so that helped me out. I fell like I’m ready for that next jump and to keep on pushing my development to the next level, and that’s where I’m at.”
Goaltender development is a challenging process. It generally takes prospects a while to get acclimated to the change in speed from amateur hockey to pro.
With health issues behind him for now, the 22-year-old is focused on making sure that he’s acclimated to the speed.
“Everything happens a lot faster (in the pros),” Keyser said. “Guys are so much better than they are in juniors, and you’ve got to tailor your game to fit that kind of speed. For me, it was more or less just keeping things more controlled on east-west plays, reading the play better, not getting out of position. Because if you do get out of position, things just happen way too fast at this level and they’ll burn you. I think it was just an adjustment period for me in the last two years to figure out what worked for me and what didn’t.
“I think last year was really when I found what was working for me at that level, and that’s why I started to have more success at the higher level because I was starting to figure it out myself.”
Keyser had a .917 save percentage in 22 ECHL appearances last season, so the numbers certainly suggest that he’s ready for a jump. Since Keyser is more of a “prospect” than Booth is, the preference for the Bruins likely will be for Keyser to get leaned on more in Providence. And with the situation in net for Boston so up in the air, he has a great opportunity in front of him.