BRIGHTON, Mass – All it took was a week of drills and practices at Bruins development camp to confirm that first-round pick John Beecher is tracking to be the real deal for the Black and Gold.
The 18-year-old center looked effortless and powerful skating around the ice at the Friday scrimmage at the end of camp and the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has the size and frame to be able to develop into a strong, physically dominant NHL body up front as well. It was easy to draw quick parallels between Beecher and former B’s first-round pick Trent Frederic following the draft because both were big-bodied centers taken at the end of the first round.
Still, it was clear after watching Beecher gallop around the ice all week that he’s a bit of a different animal than the blue-collar, hard-nosed Frederic and that there’s quite an upside to the Michigan-bound center if the rest of his game comes together.
“I think he has more skill than people think,’’ said Bruins coordinator of Player Development Jamie Langenbrunner. “Like, he’s getting on pucks from bad passes. He has a skill level that’s underrated.’’
The Bruins brass certainly came away impressed with Beecher after the camp had started to break up on Friday afternoon.
“His skating just stands out. You get into situational stuff, 3-v-3 or 4-v-3 that the game requires now for guys, and that comes easy to him at times,” said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “So when you think about putting some details into his game moving forward, get him even stronger and some of the nuances that he is going to have to learn in a smaller-area game. He’s [going to be] pretty effective.”
Beecher was noticeable on just about every shift Friday as he revved things up at times to another gear that other prospects couldn’t match. But he also looked at times like he was coasting through portions of shifts in the scrimmage and it’s going to be interesting to see how that effortless-looking style is going to evolve over his time skating for the Wolverines and developing into a future NHL player.
Clearly, Beecher needs to fine-tune the little things in his game like face-offs, two-way play, the playmaking instincts and keeping the high-motor running throughout his shifts on the ice as Sweeney alluded to in his comments. But the raw skills are there and starting with his size and skating ability is a great place to begin, and a combination of skills down the middle that the Bruins are going to need in a couple of years as top-six centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci continue to push into their mid-30’s as core Bruins players.
To this humble hockey writer, Beecher looked like he had more than a little Jack Eichel in his game based on the athleticism and his ability to fly up and down the ice.
Beecher is taking the right approach of simply observing, listening and learning as a new member of the Bruins organization, and it will be interesting to see what he does at Michigan while expected to slide into a top-six role at Michigan. It will be a far cry from sitting behind Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras in his time with the US National Development Team over the last couple of seasons as a ridiculously talented fourth line center.
“It’s a little different knowing that I’m a part of the organization, but at the same time I’ll be heading off to Michigan. It will always be in the back of my head, but I’m going to focus on Michigan next year and taking it step-by-step. I want to do everything I can get better, and grow as a player and as a person,” said Beecher. “It’s been special to be here and great to get to know the staff.
“I just wanted to show them what I can do, and that I was the right man for the pick. There is a lot of talent here and I just wanted to showcase what I can do. My style fits in with theirs. They’re a hard and heavy team to play against with a lot of speed and that’s exactly how I play. I don’t think I could have gone to a better place. I don’t know if there’s a better fan base in sports. You’ve got the Sox and the Patriots and everything like that.”
In fact, Beecher is so much of a Boston fan that he somehow grew up a Red Sox fan despite being born and raised in Elmira, New York, as the son of diehard Yankees fans.
“As baseball goes I was actually a Sox fan growing up as a kid,” Beecher admitted this week. “My brother and I kind of went to the dark side on our parents. They were Yankees fans. I was a Big Papi fan, so it kind of worked out.”
Clearly, that piece of info allowed him to ace his NHL combine interview with the Bruins and was a big check mark as the B’s brass did decide to take him with the 30th overall pick. But don’t let the fun Red Sox story fool you.
The Bruins drafting Beecher was all about the size, the skating and the upside that he can bring to Bruins forwards that are going to need more of those things over the next couple of years. He made an excellent, swift first impression at development camp. Now, it’s time to sit back and watch what Beecher can develop into this year while going to one of the best college hockey programs in the country.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.