By: Joe Travia | Follow me on Twitter @NHLJoeTravia
I hate to admit it, but I think I may be breaking my own rule. Whenever the Bruins send a team of prospects to one of the preseason showcases, I try to keep a good perspective when watching the games. There are very few players with any NHL experience (the Bruins’ grizzled vet this weekend is Marc McLaughlin, with 11 career NHL Games), and most of the players suiting up are unlikely to make the NHL any time soon, and that is if they make it at all. While it is crucial to stand out when playing at this level, succeeding in an NHL game is an entirely different animal. Still, every year there seem to be one or two players who stand out enough that expectations for them start growing. For me, that guy is John Beecher.
Beecher’s prospect status has been a polarizing debate since he was selected 30th overall in 2019, and rightfully so, as many experts thought that the Bruins selected Beecher far too early. The criticisms of his game were well known. Though he was a big body at 6’3″ and 215 pounds with blazing speed, Beecher never scored at an elite level or showed the offensive flair usually seen in a first-round pick. His defenders would point to Beecher playing on a loaded NTDP team, leaving him in a bottom-six role behind talented players like Jack Hughes, Trevor Zegras, and Cole Caufield.
The hope was that Beecher’s game would take off once he arrived at the University of Michigan, but that didn’t happen either. Beecher was still playing a secondary role, as Michigan had players like Matty Beniers, Kent Johnson, and Thomas Bordeleau. Beecher also caught the injury bug and finished his college career with 39 points in 81 games across three seasons. He was not exactly befitting of a first-round pick.
The arrow finally started pointing up for Beecher when he signed a professional try-out agreement with the Providence Bruins at the tail end of the 2021-2022 season. The jump up in competition seemed to bring out the best in Beecher, as he totaled three goals and two assists in nine games while getting his feet wet at the professional level. It was an encouraging start.
After spending the summer getting in better shape, Beecher has shown up this year looking like a guy who wants to play in the NHL sooner rather than later. When you see him on the ice, the traits the Bruins loved enough to select him in the first round are evident. His blend of size and speed is rare. He’s strong on the puck, and he is not shy about getting involved in the dirty areas of the ice.
While there were concerns about Beecher’s ability to score enough at the professional level, his audition in the AHL last season and his performance in the rookie showcase are starting to ease those a bit. Beecher has scored a goal in both games thus far, with his first being a nifty breakaway move that ended up being the game-winner.
These are all very encouraging signs for Beecher’s NHL prospects. A common criticism of the Bruins in recent years is that they are short on players in their bottom six with speed and tenacity who can also contribute offensively. With Tomas Nosek penciled in as the fourth-line center to start the season, it is a near certainty that John Beecher begins the year in Providence to continue his development. But Beecher is knocking on the door, and if he continues to develop the way he has, it won’t be long until he kicks it down.