Well, it’s finally official. As of August 14, 2023, the Boston Bruins have officially lost their top two centers. On the heels of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci’s retirement, I thought now would be the perfect time to introduce the first center on the Top-Ten Bruins Prospects list. The number six prospect in Boston’s system is John Beecher.
Beecher joined the Bruins organization when he was drafted 30th overall in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. The 6′ 3″, 209-pound center spent the two seasons before his draft year with the USNTDP Team. He played more of a supporting role there, skating on the third line behind Jack Hughes and Alex Turcotte in the third-line center position. He registered 15 goals, 28 assists, and 43 points in 63 games in the season before his draft year.
After being selected, Beecher attended the University of Michigan and skated with the Wolverines for three seasons. Even in the NCAA, Beecher couldn’t escape a somewhat relegated role. In his freshman year, he was fourth on the team in scoring, posting nine goals, seven assists, and 16 points in 31 games. His sophomore season was cut short due to injuries, which limited him to only 16 games. During his junior year, and his final season at Michigan, he put up six goals, nine assists, and 15 points in 34 games.
Beecher’s numbers don’t jump off the page (and in some ways are alarming for a first-round pick), but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Elmira, NY native was often a victim of circumstance in Ann Arbor, having to play checking line roles behind highly touted prospects like Matty Beniers, Kent Johnson, and Thomas Bordeleau. Following his time in the NCAA, Beecher graduated to the AHL, where he suited up for the Providence Bruins in 2022-23. Beecher spent the season moving up and down the lineup, eventually finishing the year with nine goals, 14 assists, and 23 points in 61 games.
The big selling point on Beecher going into the 2019 draft was his size and speed. Mckeen’s Hockey noted in their 2019 draft guide that Beecher’s speed was “…better than many players four inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter.” He’s a rare big-bodied skater that can accelerate in open ice and break away from opponents using just his legs. He utilizes his long, smooth strides to ignite the breakout, excel in transition, and wreak havoc on the forecheck.
Speed alone is an excellent asset for any skater, but when you couple that with Beecher’s size and frame, you get a player who can take over games. Beecher isn’t someone you would describe as tall and lanky. He’s every bit of 209 pounds and every inch of 6’3″. He can dominate along the walls and behind the net, winning puck battles and physically imposing his will on defenders. He also has a mean streak, willing to throw his weight around and play police officer if necessary.
I can’t emphasize enough just how special Beecher’s physical tools are. Imagine your favorite NHL power forward, then make him twice as fast, and you end up with Beecher. He thrives in the defensive zone, can close quickly on attacking forwards, physically imposes himself when supporting his defensemen, and sticks with any skater (no matter how fast) while in the zone. We all know how much the Bruins organization values a defensively responsible center. Beecher has the tools to participate in a penalty kill/checking line role this upcoming season.
Although Beecher has such a unique blend of size and speed, his finishing and offensive abilities leave something to be desired. You can tell by his point totals that the first-round pick struggles to put the puck in the net. He doesn’t have the finishing touch and finesse that fans would want out of a first-round pick. On top of that, Beecher’s instincts can be suspect at times. He has the physical tools to take over games, but some nights he just doesn’t use them. But when he DOES use them, it can lead to something extraordinary
I cannot overstate how rare Beecher’s raw abilities are. As I said before, Beecher is physically ready to compete at the NHL level right now. Due to the sheer amount of depth forwards the Bruins brought in this offseason, I don’t think Beecher will crack the lineup for over a few games. But mark my words, if the team wanted to embrace a youth movement this season, Beecher could be an effective fourth-line center as we speak.
Beecher could potentially be a top-six center if he puts it all together. At worst, he can be an effective shutdown center that forechecks like crazy and is responsible in his zone. He’s the biggest wildcard in the Bruins’s system, and it’ll be fun to watch what steps he takes this season.