|Everett Silvertips' center Kyle Beach is hoping to build on last year, when he scored over 60 points in his rookie season.
The 17-year-old center with the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips plays the game hard. He goes into the danger zones on the ice with the reckless abandon of a kid playing with a toy tractor in a pile of dirt. He hits. He fights. He scores. Sometimes all in the same shift.
There is no question Beach is a tough player to play against and his team loves him for it.
“Kyle is a throwback player,” Silvertips’ assistant coach Mark LeRose says. “He competes every night regardless of the situation – if we’re down goals or up. The more physical the game is, the more intense he is. He’s just a competitor.”
Beach was the 10th-overall selection in the WHL draft in 2005 and crashed his way through an impressive rookie season in 2006-07. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound native of Kelowna, British Columbia piled up 29 goals and 61 points – good for third on his talented team. He also led Everett with 196 penalty minutes and a plus-27 plus/minus rating.
Beach combined with Zach Hamill and Dan Gendur on an effective line that helped the Silvertips to a league-high 54 wins and 111 points. Along the way, Beach picked up the WHL’s Rookie of the Year award and, for the first time, he started to believe that an NHL career was a possibility.
“I think, for me, the first real eye-opener was probably after my first year in the Western Hockey League,” said Beach, who scored in his debut as an under-ager in 2005. “The coaches and everyone else on our team gave me every opportunity to get drafted this year. I think that was the first time that I really saw the NHL as a huge possibility.”
NHL scouts have definitely noticed Beach, an early favorite as the top prospect in the WHL for the 2008 Entry Draft in June.
Scouts love his combination of grit and skill and see him as a prototypical power forward at the next level. He already plays a complete game at both ends of the ice.
“There isn’t a situation where we don’t feel comfortable putting Kyle on the ice,” said LeRose, a former coaching staff assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “He’ll play the power play; he’ll penalty kill for us. If it’s late in the game, we’ll look to Kyle to win a big draw or to block a shot. To us, he’s the type of player that every team needs. He’s our go-to guy in every situation.”
Beach hasn’t missed a beat this season. He is leading the Silvertips in scoring with five goals – including a Sidney Crosby-inspired lacrosse style job last week against the Spokane Chiefs – and 10 points in seven games. He has also racked up a league-high 47 penalty minutes, including three fighting majors.
“He leads our team in points, but he also leads in the locker room and leads on our bench,” said LeRose, who joined the Silvertips’ coaching staff in June. “We chart different statistics and he’s by far our best player as far as creating chances for and being on the ice for chances against.”
“I’ve always kind of done it,” said Beach, whose second cousin is Oakland A’s pitcher Rich Harden. “For me to be doing it now is nothing different than before. I’ve been compared to a guy like Darcy Tucker when he played in the WHL. As he learned to control it and use it at the proper time, it became quite useful and helped him out quite a bit. It’s just part of my game and the way I play.”
|Kyle Beach is leading the Silvertips in scoring with five goals, and also has a league-high 47 penalty minutes.|
His obvious skill level and the rare ability to take control of a game by getting to his opponents are assets to his team; but Beach can quickly become a liability if he spends too much time in the penalty box. His ability to control that aggression this year will go a long way in determining where Beach ultimately ends up in the draft.
“He gets under opponents’ skin, there’s no question about that,” LeRose said. “He does get under the skin of everybody – the players, the opposing coaches, the referees. To some degree, we try to pull in the reigns a little bit so that he can stay focused on the task at hand. I think that’s Kyle’s challenge. He doesn’t want to flood his engine with emotion. He needs to be able to keep it under control.”
Beach understands the need to be able to keep a lid on his emotions at times; but he also needs to play on the edge to be effective. It’s a line that few players have been able to ride as successfully as Beach did as a 16-year-old rookie in the WHL.
“It was a little tough, you’re playing against 20-year and 19- and 18-year-olds,” Beach said. “They all demand respect and, quite honestly, I wasn’t willing to give it to them as a 16-year-old. Not many of them liked that. Everybody that was coming after me was two, three or even four years older than me. It was a bit tough, but I managed to get through it and I think now guys are giving me a bit more respect for it.”
After proving that he wasn’t willing to back down to older players as a WHL rookie, LeRose believes that Beach has the ability to successfully take his game to the NHL level.
“There’s no question in my mind that he is going to continue to do this at every level,” said LeRose. “He’s just one of those guys who (are) going to compete and battle and earn his ice time.”