By James Slater | Follow Me On Twitter @WhatsJamesBruin
With the 30th pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft the Boston Bruins selected forward John Beecher from the USDP (United Stated Development Program). Beecher, a University of Michigan commit at the time, is just one of many prospects the Bruins selected recently who decided to take their hockey careers through the NCAA. He is also one of the focus points in this article, but more on that later.
Though the Bruins have had clear success drafting in other areas of the world, see Bruins recent success with Czech players. Still it’s safe to say the original 6 hockey club enjoys drafting prospects who are taking a route that gives a bit more time before contracts need to be handed out.
While there are many of these players throughout the organization, both in the NHL and the AHL (Charlie McAvoy, Trent Frederic etc), the focus here is on the prospects who will eventually be returning to college for another season. So, just who are these higher-learners? (please note players are listed alphabetically by last name)
Jack Becker – not to be confused with University of Michigan teammate John Beecher – was selected in the 7th round of the infamous 2015 entry draft. The 22 year old from Dellwood, Minnesota will be returning to the University of Michigan for his senior year, with the hopes of making a big leap.
This past season Becker saw a minor drop off in total points posting 8-4-12 through 32 games, though he did tie his NCAA career high in goals. Still the 6’3” 190lbs right winger will be looking to prove himself as a consistent scorer before he makes the pro leap. According to NESN’s Logan Mullen, Becker knows his main areas of improvement are his skating ability and filling out that 6’3” frame. If he can make himself a bit less lanky and add power behind the bulk he’s looking for, it could change his game just enough to see the points start racking up. His senior year could prove to be one of the most significant seasons in his young career.
Unlike many of the others mentioned in this article there is actually a chance Beecher does not return to college to play. Instead he could exploit a loophole that allows him to play in the CHL this upcoming season. This could be especially enticing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as the NCAA may take a much longer time to start their season. But with Beecher having just completed a freshman year where he came out of the gates hot with 4 points in his first 5 games he may decide to stick around and see where the Wolverines can take his development.
Though Beecher did not keep up the .80 points per game pace for the rest of the season, the Elmira, NY native did finish tied for second in goals for the Wolverines with 9. His point total through 31 games was 9-7-16. The 6’3” 210lbs center was also second on the team in PIMs, after having served a one game suspension for headbutting during a game on February 1st.
Probably the most disappointing part of the year for Beecher was his performance in the World Junior Championship U20 tournament, where he played for team USA. Beecher had 0 points and was -3 through 5 games. Though in the World Junior Summer Showcase Beecher did have much more success.
At his worst Beecher is a dynamic skating, tenacious player who doesn’t mind getting physical when the points aren’t flowing in. But at his ceiling, Beecher is a new-age power forward with blazing speed to match his size and strength. If he can make even remote progress in his development, he could prove to be too much to contain for the younger players of the NCAA or CHL.
Sticking to the power forward theme with their NCAA draft picks the Bruins selected Curits Hall in the 4th round of the 2018 draft. Hall, a 6’3” 200lbs right shot center, was considered a long shot to make the USA World Junior U20 team but did. While on the team he contributed 1 goal in 5 games with a +2 rating.
Hall also enjoyed career highs in goals, assist, total points, PIMS and +/- with Yale this past season. Though he only had his freshman year stats to beat, Hall clearly made the sophomore jump, leading Yale in both goals and points, scoring 17-10-27 through 28 games played. Hall’s tremendous leap, scoring more than double his previous 11 points, was met with some well deserved accolades. Not only was Hall a Hobey Baker Award Nominee, but according to his Yale Hockey bio, the Ohio born power forward ended the season with Second Team All Sec and Second Team All Ivy League honors AND led the NCAA’s division 1 in game winning goals. In any sport, clutch is never a bad skill to have.
Hall’s ceiling may not be as high as the dynamic skating, and WJC-20 teammate, John Beecher, but he’s a big strong kid who gets to the front of the net. As most hockey fans know, and as Hall’s points attest, the front of the net is where the goals are scored. Hall’s skill may not be as flashy as a lot of high end prospects but he is self described as “hard working” and has a great two-way style that Boston fans love to see. As his game develops, Bruins fans can hope he starts drawing comparisons to the likes of Charlie Coyle or maybe even a less high end Ryan Getzlaf.
In 2018 two rounds after selecting Curtis Hall, the Bruins selected defenseman Dustyn McFaul, a Waterdown Ontario native, 181st overall. After spending the 2018-2019 in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, McFaul enrolled in Clarkson University. Mcfaul, a 19 year old during his entire Freshman year, went 1-6-7 through 31 games with a +7 rating. One goal may not scream “offensive-defenseman!” and though McFaul’s point totals thus far have attested to his stay-at-home nature, he has compared himself to the two-way style of Chicago’s Brent Seabrook. Taking a closer look at his loan freshman year goal, we can see there is some serious skill to back up that two-way play style.
In case you’re wondering, not many defensemen find themselves below the opposing team’s goal to even attempt a wrap around. But once the puck hit McFaul’s stick in stride, there was little anyone could do to stop him. The left shot D-man stands at a decent size of 6’2 185lbs and clearly has a motor on him. He too will be looking to make a significant sophomore leap. But if his development keeps up, he could find himself competing for spots at the next few development camps.
After John Beecher was selected as the Bruins 1st round pick in 2019, Quinn Olson became the Bruins next forward selected. Taking the 5’11” 170lbs left wing in the 3rd round. Olson had just come off a decent 2018-2019 season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League going 20-46-66 with 75 PIMs in 54 games. For his freshman season, Olson played for the UMD Bulldogs and had a decent rookie showing, 7-8-15 in 31 games.
Olson is often referred to as a hardworking player and has made significant jumps each year. Bruins fans should be familiar with hardworking UMD products, as Karson Kuhlman has made his presence known all throughout Boston. If Olson can continue his end of improving each year, his sophomore campaign at UMD should turn some heads. While there is certainly no way to know what Olson’s future holds, wouldn’t it be something to see the Bruins have another feisty left wing come up the pipes? In a world still aching for sports, dreaming will have to suffice for now.