As was the case last night, the Montreal Canadiens were the first team up to the podium to begin day two of the NHL Entry Draft. With their first of two picks in the second round, they went with Owen Beck from the Mississauga Steelheads.
Beck is a player with some similarities to Shane Wright in that he isn’t a flashy player, but has a very well-rounded game. It is the little things in his game that make for a very intriguing addition to the Habs prospect pool, and he has a very high floor, thus a likelihood of eventually becoming an NHL regular.
A second-round pick in the OHL draft, he never was flashy, but his work ethic, hockey IQ, and defensive responsibility made him a key player on a surprising Steelheads team. Despite missing his rookie season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he stepped into a big role with them in 2021-22 and put up 51 points in 68 games, adding another six points in 10 playoff games.
He is an above-average skater with great top-end speed, giving him a high-level transition game. Defenders have to give him a gap to avoid him blowing past them, and when they don’t, he sends them scrambling to catch up.
He is also a monster in the faceoff circle, posting a 60.6% win rate, well beyond any of his peers who took at least 500 draws in the OHL. He was the player they would send out whenever possible for key faceoffs, and not only for his prowess.
He is also a highly capable defender. Scouts tout his positioning and hockey IQ as among the best in this draft class, and he never takes a shift off or cheats to try and create offense. He is about as close as you can get to a shutdown centre at the junior level. There were even a few games where I watched him this season and had flashes of Phillip Danault. In a league where defence comes second fiddle to scoring, he takes the former very seriously.
Brock Otten from McKeen’s had some great praise for Beck, saying, “He is like a Swiss army knife. He can play (and excel) in all situations and has an extremely well-rounded skill set. This includes being one of the draft’s most dynamic skaters. Beck’s ability to create separation with his feet makes him extremely dangerous in transition, however, he shows an ability to make sound decisions and skilled plays at full speed, a trait that not all draft-eligible speedsters exhibit.”
Playmaking would be the biggest area for improvement in his game. His skating makes him a menace in transition, but he can struggle at times to complete plays under pressure or on the rush. He has a tendency to try some low-percentage shots where threading a pass would be the better option. This is something he will need to work on before getting to the next level.
That being said, he has a heavy shot with great accuracy. It makes sense that he leans on that shot, albeit more than he should, and it could suggest that there is more offensive potential to be unlocked. Unlocking that potential is precisely what could push him towards a future in the top-six at the NHL level, rather than pivoting a bottom-six line.
His production definitely leaves something to be desired at the OHL level, but he was a rookie on a Steelheads team where their top scorer only had 77 points. Had his true rookie season in 2020-21 actually happened, we could have seen more tantalizing numbers from Beck, but then he likely wouldn’t have been available for Montreal on day two.
The great news is, even if he doesn’t develop more of an offensive touch, his floor appears to be that of a dependable bottom-six centre in the NHL, so anything beyond that is gravy for the Canadiens.
You are far from guaranteed NHL players outside of the first round, sometimes even the top-10. Beck has as good a chance as virtually anyone in this draft to become an NHL regular, and that makes for a solid second-round pick.
Given that 2021-22 was technically Beck’s draft-minus-one season, it would be quite premature to expect him to jump into the Canadiens lineup next season. He should be expected to return to Mississauga and continue his development there with a bigger role on an improving team.
He may work his way onto the radar for Team Canada at next year’s World Junior Hockey Championship. His defensive responsibility and positioning would make him an excellent candidate for that squad, and since a bump in offensive production is to be expected next year, he could be tough to leave at home for that tournament.
I absolutely love this pick for Montreal. Myself, as well as my colleague Jared Book, both took him in our recent mock drafts, and he was a first-rounder in the SB Nation mock so there is reason to be excited about this pick. He could very easily mature into a top-nine role for the Canadiens, and if his playmaking skills can be developed further before that happens, this could end up being a pick that we look back on as a steal.
A great start for Montreal on day two of the draft.