There were quite a few raised eyebrows directed at the Bruins back on June 21.
When Boston opted to select John Beecher with the 30th overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, many drew parallels to Trent Frederic — another big-bodied pivot the B’s scooped up in the first round of the 2016 Draft that, based on draft projections, likely could have been snagged in the second round.
While it only took a quick glance at the highlight reels to see that Beecher is an intriguing blend of skill and size (6-foot-3, 209 pounds), his overall draft stock left a bit to be desired going into the end of June.
In its final rankings ahead of the draft, NHL Central Scouting tabbed Beecher 49th overall amongst North American skaters — with the addition of European and goaltender prospects potentially pushing the Elmira, N.Y. native into the second or even the third round.
But when projecting Beecher’s ceiling, especially in a top-six role, the Bruins felt there was enough potential there to warrant a first-round selection. After all, offensive chances often were few and far between for Beecher on a loaded 2018-19 NTDP U-18 team that saw eight players taken in the first round — and a record 17 selected in the draft overall.
With pivots like Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras ahead of him on the depth chart, Beecher’s minutes on the power play and in other favorable offensive situations rarely manifested last year — and yet, he still managed to tally 15 goals and 43 points over 63 games.
Going forward, with Beecher expected to earn heavy minutes as a freshman at Michigan in 2019-20, the Bruins believe that the 18-year-old’s skills will translate into a surge in offensive production with additional reps — validating Boston’s decision to select him in the first round.
“There’s growth left in his game,” Don Sweeney said of Beecher. “He’s already a big, strong guy, and the skating ability and the ice he can cover. You look at the second half of his year and the production, without playing in primary, productive roles? Obviously with a very elite group of players.
“Our guys did a lot of work in terms of the character of the player, and we believe there’s growth still available. He doesn’t necessarily pop offensively because he hasn’t been put in those situations, but he’s going to be a real hard guy to play against … I know Michigan sees him as a top-two-line guy, and we’ll see the growth that comes from there.”
It hasn’t taken very long for Beecher to put forward some encouraging signs for Boston’s top brass, with the center often separating himself from the pack — literally — during the Bruins’ Development Camp at the end of June.
“Speed,” Bruins Director of Player Development Jamie Langenbrunner said of his first impression of Beecher. “He showed a lot of speed, and played with a ton of poise. Real calm for an 18-year-old out there. Didn’t get rattled, stayed within himself. And super athletic. He’s picking up pucks, bad passes — no problem.”
A good start for Boston’s latest first-round pick, and it’s only snowballed from there — with the young skater once again turning heads at the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase up in Michigan.