As another training camp begins in Boston, an aging Bruins core continues to inch toward its inevitable break-up point. With that comes the heightened importance of a youth movement each season.
For the Bruins, though, a much-maligned draft record of late has yet to yield concrete results. The few promising prospects within the organization face a tall task of producing immediate results before the inevitable retool.
Fairly or unfairly so, Boston’s first-round NHL Draft picks face significant pressure. But John Beecher started to raise his stock early on in training camp following a productive start to his time in the Bruins organization last spring.
“The rhetoric’s been a little unfair on Johnny, to be perfectly honest with you,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said regarding Boston’s 2019 first-round pick. “He’s just starting to get acclimated to the pro level. We’ve always felt there was going to be a transition period for him.”
Beecher aims to rediscover his game after an offensively subdued three years at the University of Michigan. He dedicated himself to offensive development during the summer, which has given him a confidence boost heading into camp.
“I think [my confidence is] where I want it to be,” Beecher said. “A big thing is just, you know, attack mentality,” Beecher added when asked about his offseason focus. “I’ve always been kind of a pass-first guy, but I mean my shot, at the end of the day, is a big attribute of mine.”
As his off-season progressed, Beecher’s also worked on a lighter touch on the ice, driven by his search for a complete playing identity. Dropping roughly 10-15 pounds already reaped results for the 21-year-old looking to bring his speed to the professional level.
The former Wolverine displayed all his off-season improvements during last week’s prospect’s challenge in Buffalo, where he tallied three goals in three games.
“I lost around 10 pounds, so definitely feeling good,” Beecher said of his off-season and the recent trip to Buffalo. “In the third game we had, it was probably the best my legs had felt all weekend, which was a huge positive sign for me.”
Beecher struggled to find a proper role within a uber-talented Michigan program. The 2021-22 Wolverines possessed four of the top five selections in the 2021 NHL Draft, a talent pool in which Beecher found himself on the outside looking in.
Beecher struggled to produce offensively in his three seasons in Ann Arbor, tallying 39 points on 19 goals and 20 assists in 81 games. During that time, Beecher needed to evolve his two-way game to carve out a role within a top-ranked college program. Yet, Beecher’s collegiate evolution may prove essential in his quest to earn an opening night roster spot.
“Obviously coming from Michigan with a star-studded team and not given, you know, necessarily every opportunity,” Beecher said. “I just wanted to do whatever I could to help our team win…if I can do my best on the penalty kill and five on five and you know, just give my teammates everything I could, then it would lead to success.”
With that evolution comes flexibility for Beecher, who hopes to stand out within a crowded field of prospective fourth-liners. Between established veterans like Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek, to younger prospective players like Oskar Steen and Marc McLaughlin, Beecher’s adaptiveness and versatility remain essential in order to secure a roster spot.
Beecher’s intangibles and other highly coveted attributes like winning faceoffs will go a long way according to Jim Montgomery.
“He wins a lot of draws,” the first-year Bruins coach said regarding Beecher playing at center or wing. “Right now we’re thinking just center.”
“It’s kind of one of those things where you just kind of have to get adjusted to the new D zone,” Beecher said. “You know, just picking pucks up off walls and making plays.”
Much will evolve in a seemingly short timeframe between now and Boston’s season opener on Oct. 11. The long-term future of young prospects like Fabian Lysell and John Beecher will only have short-term answers to work with.
If there’s anything to learn down the road from looking at someone like Beecher’s young career, it’s that the development of prospective NHLers is somewhat of a process, if not a constantly evolving puzzle. Whether or not Beecher’s game will develop and translate to the highest league in the world is anyone’s guess.
For better or worse, allowing prospects like Fabian Lysell and Beecher to develop at their own rate inside a veteran-heavy organization with an ever-shrinking ‘win-now’ window remains a prerogative for Montgomery and the Boston brass.
“We want players to come and play for the Bruins when they’re ready to play and help us every night,” Montgomery said. “We try to make sure that we’re communicating that it’s a process. When you’re ready, we’re gonna bring you in.”
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