NHL Notebook: Bruins 2019 1st-round pick Johnny Beecher talks development, future after promising season at Michigan

(Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Johnny Beecher is still a few years away from donning a black and gold sweater. But these days, his routine isn’t all too different from those up in the NHL ranks. 

Well, save for the online classes.

Back home in Elmira, New York, after the COVID-19 pandemic cut his NCAA season — and freshman year — short at Michigan, Beecher has had to get creative when it comes to keeping in shape and charting a course toward furthering his development as one of the Bruins' top prospects.

"Obviously it's really not ideal, but I'm never going to complain about being able to spend some time in my house and to be with my family a little bit," Beecher told earlier this week.

Early-morning runs, afternoon weight lifting and an occasional round of golf are regularly scheduled entries on the docket for the B's 2019 first-round pick, who is focused on staying positive and poised despite a sports calendar riddled with uncertainty in the coming months. 

Despite the usual growing pains that come with making the jump up from the collegiate ranks, Beecher was satisfied with the production he put forward during his first season with the Wolverines. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound forward ranked fourth on his team with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) over 31 games, including a highlight-reel tally in what was Michigan's final game of the season — a 3-0 victory over rival Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal back on March 7.

Despite a slow start, a young Michigan roster appeared to be clicking at just the right time — reeling off three consecutive victories going into a semifinal bout against Ohio State. However, Beecher and the rest of his teammates were unable to see the 2019-20 season through, with COVID-19 putting a halt to all sports shortly before their matchup against the Buckeyes.

"Obviously it wasn't the start that we wanted — went on a little bit of a skid there — but after Christmas everything was just kind of rolling for us there," Beecher said. "It was super exciting. At the end of the day, it is what it is with the season being cut short and everybody had to go through it. But it was disappointing because I think you could kind of tell that we were on pace to do something special there and I think individually, my game just kept improving and escalating throughout the season. I think, by playoff time,  I was playing some of my best hockey I ever have. So I was really pleased with how I kind of left things off there and I'm really looking forward to next season."

There's an awful lot to like about Beecher's game — a rare blend of power-forward snarl with the wheels that regularly left opposing skaters in the dust at Yost Ice Arena. It was one of the reasons why Beecher, primarily utilized in a bottom-six role on a loaded U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) roster, was still viewed as a first-round selection when Boston came calling last June.