2019 NHL Draft prospect profile: John Beecher has size and speed

The USNTDP centreman couldn’t be contained by opposing defences this season.

The U.S. National Team Development Program selects some of the best young players in the country with the goal of developing them in their system. It has shown some great results in the past with many NHL players coming from the program.

But it’s not always the star producers of the team that have the best professional careers. Due to the amount of talent that is present in the organization most years, some high-potential young players are forced to contribute in depth roles and get less opportunities to shine.

John Beecher is one of those prospects. His 43 points in 63 games don’t stand out from the US Under-18 pack, but his production has to be put into context. He played in the bottom of the forward group during the season, didn’t get power-play time, and wasn’t matched with Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras and Matthew Boldy very often, if at all.

Birthplace: Elmira, New York, USA
Date of birth: April 5, 2001
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 209 lbs.

His duty was to be a supporting piece to the explosive talent that was getting the brunt of the offensive assignments. He had to be reliable, versatile, and effective. Beecher was all of those things this season for the program, and he managed to impress scouts with his tools even playing that more limited role.

The first standout element of Beecher is his stature. He measures in at 6’3” and weights close to 210 pounds. Not only does he have a size advantage on most of the 2019 draft class, he is also a better skater than most of them.

Beecher doesn’t have the rapid footwork of some of the best skaters in the draft, but his stride is long and powerful which gives his speed a deceptive element. In just a few pushes, he can go from the defensive zone to flying into the offensive zone. And he also has the acceleration to go with it.

Size and high mobility is a rare and attractive combo, and Beecher has learned to use both those elements against his opposition.

John Beecher wears #17 with the USNTDP

He barreled down the ice in the wide lane a few times a game this season, often beating the defence before it had time to reposition to counter him. He’d either shoot from the circles or attack the middle of the ice, which led to better scoring chances or extended presences in the offensive zone for his line.

The forward’s rushing game was limited by his lack of high-end stick-handling ability, but with his speed his moves were still hard to stop for the defence, allowing him to slip right through at times.

He ranks at the top of the tracking project in controlled entries per 60. As he learns to better involve teammates in his rushes and open up lanes for himself with more deceptive routes, he will further improve this facet of his game, and it will continue to be effective versus professionals.

On top of his desire to play a speed-based offensive game, what makes Beecher interesting is that he also a solid two-way game as a centreman. He takes good defensive angles and his stature and mobility allow him to consistently remain in position to prevent offensive plays. He supports his teammates well on the breakout, circling low in the defensive zone to get his defencemen out of trouble and take the puck out of the zone.

This play at the World Under-18 tournament illustrates Beecher’s game well:

He reads the opposing regroup and intercepts a pass coming from the stick of a Finnish defenceman, then protects the puck and slides it over to his own defenceman before gaining speed. He attacks the offensive blue line, mishandles the pass he receives at first but forechecks well, taking away space with his stick and finishing a hit.

Finland turns the puck over. He goes to the front of the net and gets a great scoring chance on a rebounding point shot.

Rankings (not all rankings are final)

Button/TSN: #45
Dobber Prospects: #52
Elite Prospects: #57
Future Considerations: #33
Hockey Prospect: #45
McKenzie/TSN: #41
NHL Central Scouting: #49 (NA skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #32

Ultimately, the questions when scouting Beecher are related to his upside. Does he have enough offensive capability to be a play-driver as he rises in level?

There weren’t many flashes of top-end skill from him this season as his skating drove most of his offence, often able to gain a step on slower Junior defenders. When established in the season, he didn’t show consistent abilities to set up his teammates, even if his size allowed him to extend his possession time and look for passing options.

Generally, his offence was formulaic. As his natural advantages made his game work a reasonable percentage of the time against his opposition, the incentive to keep this style of play was there for Beecher — especially since he wasn’t surrounded with players capable of high creativity, either.

All in all, his offensive game might require more projection than some of his temmates’, but the aforementioned advantages that brought him success in Junior are also very translatable to the NHL game. Those alone should make Beecher a first- or second-round pick. Even if he doesn’t put up numbers at higher levels, he should still be a reliable, versatile, and effective piece for an organization, just like he was for the USNTDP.

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