Jordan Maher is changing teams and leagues next season but not the city where he plays.
The 21-year-old Gander, N.L., native has committed to playing for the UPEI Panthers of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) hockey conference this fall after finishing his major junior career with the Charlottetown Islanders on March 31.
“I think it’s a good fit for me,” Maher said. “I’ve enjoyed my few months on the Island, playing with the Islanders, and really enjoyed the City of Charlottetown.”
Maher spent the first four seasons of his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan before being traded to the Halifax Mooseheads at the 2018 draft. Maher was part of the Islanders’ return for Keith Getson in a deal of overage forwards on Dec. 22.
Maher said he was considering UPEI before the trade but acknowledged it had an impact in his decision.
“I think me moving and making the transition here definitely helped,” he said.
Maher took a couple of courses during the second semester at UPEI and got a chance to know Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson better. Islanders assistant coach Brad MacKenzie is a former Panthers assistant and provided MacPherson with rave reviews for Maher’s all-around game.
“He just became a priority for us,” MacPherson said.
The Panthers coach watched him during his time with the Islanders and saw him play a variety of roles in key situations.
“Probably the biggest compliment a coach can hand out to a player is level of trust. He played in all situation for the Islanders,” MacPherson said. “His game, on my viewings, never really fluctuated. . . He seems to be a very consistent player.”
Islanders head coach Jim Hulton said the organization is thrilled to see Maher stay in Charlottetown.
“It speaks to what an impression that Prince Edward Island made on Jordan in a short period of time,” he said. “I think a lot of guys get here and fall in love with the Island quickly.”
Hulton said its partnership with the Panthers is important and they would like to foster and build on it.
Maher experienced a lot during his junior days, including winning the Memorial Cup a year ago with the Titan, which drafted him sixth overall in 2014.
“I started from the bottom in last place to last year having the best team,” he said.
Maher enjoyed his time with the Islanders and said it was sad the run end earlier than hoped with a first-round loss to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
There is a transition for each player making the jump to the university circuit, but Maher said he think his 200-foot game and being strong positionally will help make it easier.
“The game is so fast you kind of need to be aware at all times.”
Maher did get a chance to see one of the Panthers games during his time here this season.
“It’s good, fast hockey,” he said. “I’m excited for it.”
Maher said he knows some of the Panthers current and incoming players which will make the transition a bit easier.
He joins the list of Newfoundland natives who have played for the Panthers in recent years, including Chad Locke, Alex Wall, Marcus Power, Nathan Yetman, Kurt Etchegary and Andrew Picco.
“There’s a lot of high-quality hockey players that come out of Newfoundland,” MacPherson said. “I think, deep down, there might be a unique bond between Newfoundlanders and Prince Edward Islanders.”
Need to know
A look at the players who have graduated from the UPEI Panthers men’s hockey team after the 2018-19 season:
Captain Brent Andrews
The Hunter River native graduated with a master of business administration in global leadership this spring. He completed his five years of university eligibility, having worn the Panthers C for the past three seasons.
He has played for two programs during the past decade, having spent his five-year junior career with the Halifax Mooseheads.
“That says a lot right there,” Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson.
Andrews was one of the faces of the Panthers program and scored the overtime winner of the first game of this year’s playoffs with Moncton.
The fourth-year Panther from Lumsden, Sask., finished his business degree this year and played his best hockey as a Panther.
“Top-six players were requesting for him to be on their line,” MacPherson said. “He played in important minutes, especially down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
“Beni has been one of those quiet leaders in our programs and on campus,” MacPherson said. “It’s amazing how well respected and thought of he is within our team.”
The tenacious winger was asked to play defence during the 2017-18 season with the Panthers trying to fill a void on the blue-line. The Mississauga, Ont., native agreed and became an important part of the team’s culture on and off the ice.
The Farmington Hills, Mich., native played two years of professional hockey before wearing the Panthers green and white for the past three seasons. He graduated with his science degree this spring and is exploring the possibility of more education south of the border.
“The world is his oyster. He’s got a bright future,” MacPherson said.