Bradly Nadeau puts on a Carolina Hurricanes jersey while standing next to Coach Rod Brind’Amour after being selected during the first round of the NHL entry draft in Nashville, Tenn., on June 28. Nadeau will be a freshman forward on the University of Maine hockey team this winter. George Walker IV/Associated Press

ORONO — It was the biggest moment of Bradly Nadeau’s life, but the 18-year-old can’t remember it clearly.

“If I’m being honest, from the walk (to the stage) I don’t remember anything until I was doing interviews after,” Nadeau said of being selected in the first round of NHL draft. “I do remember being on stage for a moment, and I was shaking.”

That was just over three months ago, when the New Brunswick native was selected 30th overall in the 2023 entry draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. A pro hockey career, however, is likely a few years away. Nadeau, a speedy forward with a powerful shot, is embarking on his first season of college hockey as a freshman at the University of Maine.

He is the most anticipated UMaine recruit in more than two decades, since goalie Jimmy Howard came to Orono in 2002. Howard led the Black Bears to the 2004 NCAA championship game before going on to play 14 years for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.

That was during the glory days for the men’s hockey team. Between 1988 and 2007, Maine went to the NCAA Frozen Four 11 times, winning national titles in 1993 and 1999. But in the 16 years after 2007, the program slowly went into a tailspin. The Black Bears have had just six winning seasons since then, reaching the NCAA tournament only once, a first-round exit in 2012.

Now Nadeau’s arrival – combined with vast improvement last season in Ben Barr’s second year as head coach – has stirred excitement for the team once again. Two thousand season tickets have been sold, a 35% increase from last winter, according the school’s athletic department. The team starts its season Thursday night against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Alfond Arena in Orono.


“For (Nadeau) to come to the University of Maine instead of (college hockey powers) North Dakota or Minnesota or one of those programs, I’m just thrilled,” said Jack Loftus of Bangor, a season-ticket holder since 1983.

Maine went 15-16-5 last season, a leap forward from its 7-22-4 record in 2021-22, Barr’s first season. Nadeau and his brother Josh, who will turn 20 this month, are the top players in a freshman class that is expected to help the Black Bears take another step forward.

UMaine’s Bradly Nadeau, center, takes the puck down the ice during Saturday’s exhibition hockey game against the University of New Hampshire at Colby College in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

On Saturday night, 5-foot-10, 163-pound Bradly Nadeau had two assists in the Black Bears’ 3-2 exhibition win over New Hampshire at Colby College in Waterville. He skated at left wing on Maine’s top line, with his brother on the other side and senior captain Lynden Breen at center. Josh Nadeau scored two goals in the victory.

“It’s obvious having a talent like Bradly Nadeau improves all the other players,” said Dale Jellison, a Maine hockey fan from Dedham. “If he sees you open for a better shot than he has, he’s going to get you the puck.”

Bradly Nadeau is the fourth UMaine player to be selected in the NHL draft’s first round, and first since Barrett Heisten went 20th overall in 1999 to the Buffalo Sabres. Hall of Famer Paul Kariya was the fourth pick in 1993 by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and Peter Ferraro was picked 24th overall by the New York Rangers in 1992. Players who are drafted by NHL teams retain their amateur status until they sign a pro contract; NHL teams hold rights to their draft picks through their college careers.

Nadeau is one of 14 first-round draft picks in college hockey this season. Hockey East, Maine’s conference, has seven of them, including four at Boston College. Barr was quick to point out that despite Nadeau’s physical talents, he will be one of the youngest players in NCAA hockey this winter. There will be growing pains.


“You’re playing against guys who are 24, 25 years old sometimes,” Barr said. “There are guys who are as talented as him. He’s a really level-headed kid, and he understands it’s a one-day-at-a-time process. At this level, there’s not one player who is going to change the course of a team.

“He understands there is a process involved of being able to be an elite player at this level. I have no doubt he’ll get there. He just has to keep working hard every day.”


Saint-François-de-Madawaska is a town of fewer than 500 residents on the Maine-New Brunswick border, not far from Fort Kent. Bradly and Josh Nadeau grew up there on the family cattle farm. When the boys were young, their father, John Nadeau, built a rink at their home. He covered it to protect it from the snow, and hung lights so the boys could skate night or day. When the local rink bought a new Zamboni, he bought the old one so the family would have good ice for their rink.

UMaine freshman Bradly Nadeau was the regular season and playoff MVP of the amateur British Columbia Hockey League last winter, when he and his brother, Josh, played for the Penticton Vees. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“I was pretty much spending all my evenings on the ice, which was fun,” Bradly Nadeau said.

The brothers spent hours on that ice, passing the puck back and forth, setting each other up to win the Stanley Cup for the Montreal Canadiens. When Josh left home to start his hockey journey in the amateur ranks, Brad skated alone or with his father.


Eventually the Nadeau brothers joined forces with the Penticton Vees of the amateur British Columbia Hockey League, where they could play hockey at a high level and retain their college eligibility. It was also a chance for the Nadeaus to play together on a team for the first time.

Bradly Nadeau scored 20 goals and 26 assists in his first regular season with the Vees in 2021-22, then added 11 goals and 13 assists in 17 playoff games. Last season, he dominated the league, averaging more than two points per game (45 goals and 68 assists in 54 games) in the regular season before adding 17 goals and 18 assists in the playoffs, leading Penticton to back-to-back BCHL championships. He was the league’s regular season and playoff MVP in 2022-23.

UMaine began the recruiting process with Josh Nadeau under former coach Red Gendron, who died unexpectedly in April 2021. Both Bradly and Josh Nadeau chose Maine after forming a bond with Barr, who joined the Nadeau family at the NHL draft in June.

Fred Harbinson, Penticton’s coach, said the Nadeau brothers have a natural instinct for the game, and they work at it. If there was extra ice time to be had, the brothers made sure they were on it.

“We’d never played with each in the past, but we just clicked. Growing up we used to skate a lot at home together, and it just clicked,” said Josh Nadeau, who was not selected in the NHL draft but got an invite to the Carolina Hurricanes’ development camp during the summer.



“(Bradly’s) shot is pretty unreal. He works on it a lot. His speed, playmaking, he’s overall a pretty good player.”

Harbinson said Bradly Nadeau held his own as a 16-year old against older opponents, and doesn’t expect the jump to college hockey to be a big one.

“He has a heck of a shot,” Harbinson said. “He can absolutely rip the puck.”

Ryan Hopkins, a freshman defenseman at UMaine, saw Bradly Nadeau’s shot up close while playing with the brothers the past two seasons in Penticton.

Bradly Nadeau tries to slip a shot past a goalie during a University of Maine men’s hockey practice in late September at Alfond Arena in Orono. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Every time he shoots the puck, it goes where he wants it. He has a lot of power. You really can’t always read it,” Hopkins said. “Every day, him and his brother, some of the stuff they do, it’s incredible to watch.”

Bradly Nadeau’s shot and his speed caught the attention of NHL scouts. He and his family attended the June 28 entry draft in Nashville, Tennessee, with no first-round expectations. NHL Central Scouting ranked Nadeau 17th among North American skaters in its final evaluation before the draft, but acknowledged with his lack of size, Nadeau would be a project for whatever team selected him. The Carolina Hurricanes knew that, and are happy to let Nadeau develop at UMaine.


There’s no timetable on how many seasons Nadeau could be in Orono before the Hurricanes decide it’s time for him to join their organization.

“They just want to see me improve as a player and get stronger. That’s the biggest thing. Obviously, that’s going to come with time. It can’t be done overnight,” Nadeau said. “They want to see how it goes after year one and see how it goes from there.”

Barr, the UMaine coach, strikes a cautionary tone. He was an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts in 2017 when Cale Makar arrived as the fourth-overall pick in the NHL draft. Makar had an up-and-down freshman season, Barr said, before blossoming into the Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s best player as a sophomore. Even first-round picks have a learning curve.

“It’s important for everyone to understand it,” Barr said.

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