Center Bradly Nadeau could be the University of Maine’s first first-round National Hockey League draft pick since 1999 when the draft begins on Wednesday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nadeau will be a freshman this coming season at UMaine.

UMaine head coach Ben Barr said Nadeau’s older brother, Josh, defenseman Ryan Hopkins and goalie Petriks Berzins are also draft eligible. All will be freshmen this fall.

Blake Montgomery, a forward who has recently committed to UMaine but won’t be coming to Orono for at least another year, could also be selected. 

UMaine was the only team in Hockey East that didn’t have an NHL draft choice this past season, but they have already added 2022 Phoenix Coyotes second round pick (36th overall) Artyom Duda for this coming campaign. Duda is a defenseman from Russia.

The draft begins with the first round on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Rounds two through seven will be held on Thursday beginning at 11 a.m.

Rankings from 14 different NHL sources or experts list Bradly Nadeau going anywhere from 27th to 46th overall. There are 32 NHL teams so that would mean he will likely be selected in the first round or early in the second round.

UMaine’s last first-round draft pick was winger Barrett Heisten in 1999 when he was selected as the 20th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres.

UMaine’s highest first-round pick was winger Paul Kariya, who was chosen fourth by the then-new NHL franchise the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993. The Mighty Ducks began play in the 1993-94 season.

Kariya, a native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, led UMaine to its first NCAA championship in his freshman year and won the Hobey Baker Award given to college’s top player that same season. He went on to have an NHL Hall of Fame career.

Defenseman Shawn Anderson was UMaine’s first first-round selection in 1986 when he was picked fifth by the Buffalo Sabres. He had a 255-game NHL career.

Heisten played in 10 NHL games for the New York Rangers and 404 minor league games in the AHL and ECHL.

The 18-year-old Bradly Nadeau was the British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s leading scorer and Most Valuable Player this past season when he notched 113 points on 45 goals and 68 assists in 54 games for the league champion Penticton Vees. He also had 17 goals and 18 assists in 17 playoff contests to earn playoff MVP honors.

Kariya also played for Penticton prior to arriving at UMaine.

In the Last Word on Sports website, Ben Kerr called Nadeau a “pure goal scorer. His shot is outstanding. His one-timer is particularly effective and is one of the best in this draft class. He has an excellent wrist shot and a quick release. Combined with his powerful and accurate shot, it can fool goalies and allow him to score from further out.”

Kerr also said Nadeau was an excellent skater who “isn’t afraid to take the puck to the front of the net. He can score in tight with his quick hands.”

Corey Pronman of The Athletic wrote that Nadeau “sees the ice at a high level, making a lot of seam passes and making tough passes on the move.”

Pronman also wrote that Nadeau’s one-timer “projects to beat NHL goalies from distance.”

NHL draft experts said that he will have to fill out his 5-foot-10, 161-pound frame and get stronger during his time at UMaine and adapt to the physicality of college hockey.

NHL teams that draft players who are currently in college or entering college retain the players’ rights until Aug. 15 after their senior year of college.

High-round draft choices usually don’t spend four years in college. They leave to join the organization that drafted them prior to their senior seasons, sometimes after just one year in college.

Barr said “very few players are ready to step right into the NHL” before they go to college.

“College hockey is a really good step, development-wise. NHL teams are realizing that kids can play at least a couple of years of college hockey and improve, physically, and play at a really high level. That benefits the player and whoever drafts him as well.”

Josh Nadeau, his brother’s linemate, had 44 goals and 66 assists for 110 points in 54 games and added 16 & 20 in 17 playoff games. He is 5-8, 159 pounds.

Barr doesn’t see the Nadeau brothers’ sizes as being factors that will hinder their development.

“They are extremely hard workers. Having them in the right environment and in a good culture, they will really thrive here,” Barr said. “I’m excited to get things going this fall.”

The Nadeaus are from St. Francois-de-Madawaska, New Brunswick.

The 6-foot-1, 183-pound Hopkins was a Penticton teammate of the Nadeaus and had 10 goals and 39 assists in 48 regular season games. He is from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Berzins, who is from Latvia, had an 11-3-1 record, a 2.66 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage for the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League after going 1-11-1, 3.67, .920 for Danbury in the North American Hockey League. 

The 6-1, 185-pound Berzins also played for Latvia in the World Junior Championships and was 2-4 with a 2.47 GAA and a .914 save percentage. 

The 6-4, 181-pound Montgomery, an Annapolis, Maryland, native who played for Mount Saint Charles Academy in Rhode Island last season, will play for the USHL’s Lincoln Stars this season.

Barr said the draft is a memorable time for the players and their families.

“It is obviously a special thing when they hear their name called. That’s something they have been thinking about ever since they started playing hockey,” Barr said.