It's not that Brock Beukeboom and Brandon Archibald are close, but the farthest apart they ever seem to get is when one is in the penalty box and the other is on the bench.
However, that closeness has worked for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds' defensemen, two of the top players available in the 2010 Entry Draft.
Archibald, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound bruiser, is ranked No. 64 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its final rankings, while Beukeboom, a bit smaller at 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, is No. 41.
Not only are the pair occasional defense partners, they live in the same home and use each other for support as much off the ice as they do on it.
Archibald, not surprisingly, echoed those sentiments.
"I think it helps a lot, especially living with him and being in the same house every night," he told NHL.com. "After games we can talk, and at the rink we can push each other. … It definitely helps a lot having someone to talk to, and not sitting back and thinking, 'What am I doing? Am I doing stuff right?' It helps a lot."
So far, they've been doing lots of stuff right. Archibald had 5 goals, 33 points and a minus-11 rating in 68 games, while Beukeboom had 7 goals, 26 points and a minus-9 rating in 66 games. While their plus/minus rating might not be spectacular, they've been a big reason why the Greyhounds lowered their goals-allowed by more than a goal per game, from 4.26 last season to 3.13 this season and climbed from the fewest points in the league to fifth in the Western Conference.
"Last year coming in we threw them right into the fire," Greyhounds coach Denny Lambert told NHL.com. "Sometimes they were in unfair situations. We were a young team rebuilding and we let them learn from their mistakes. They've done a great job this season. Both have excelled in all areas."
Scouts agree. Central Scouting's Chris Edwards, who specializes in Ontario prospects, had favorable things to say about both.
"He skates well and has very good mobility," he said of Archibald. "He is solid on his skates and plays with toughness in front."
"Brock has a very good shot, hard and accurate," Edwards said of Beukeboom. "He has the ability to get it on net and not have it blocked. … He has the ability to move the puck with good outlet passes. He also has the ability to take the body, he is strong and can pin opponents along the boards. He skates very well and has very good mobility and agility."
That shot was in evidence at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January, when Beukeboom won the hardest-shot competition with a pair of 92.4 mph blasts. It's something even he didn't realize he could do, as he doesn't feel the offensive part of the game is his strength.
"I get power-play time, just sometimes I have a tendency not to shoot the puck enough," he said. "I'm sure I'll be hearing that from my coaches. It's something I can use as a weapon on the ice, especially on the power play."
In his defense, Beukeboom still is learning the position -- he's only in his second season playing full-time on the blue line. Until last season, his first in the OHL, he had played forward. The move came at the insistence of his father -- former NHL defenseman Jeff Beukeboom.
"Our last season (of midget) we weren't having a great season, it was January and I said 'Brock, I see a future for you in this game but as a defenseman,'" Jeff Beukeboom told NHL.com. "He was a little hesitant. I said try it and after a month he loved it. … I think he was a good forward, but it's harder to find good defenseman in the NHL, or any league for that matter."
Brock admits he's been learning on the fly, but he seems to be picking things up pretty well.
"I think the speed and just the timing, everything," he said of the adjustment. "You're playing against guys who are 19, 20, 21 years old. It's hard to judge everything on the ice, especially when you're so new to the position. It's one of those adjustments I was willing to work at as much as possible. I still have a lot of work to do but I think I've made that learning curve and hopefully gotten a lot better."
Lambert has marveled at Beukeboom's speedy growth.
"When we drafted him he had a half year's experience (at the position)," he said. "To see him adapt that quickly is amazing. Just what I've seen from the year and a-half of him developing here has been incredible. He's learning his position, figuring out his angles, playing one-on-ones a lot better, he's reading the play a lot better."
Brock's growth, however, is taking a different path than his father. Jeff Beukeboom -- who played his junior hockey with the Greyhounds -- was a rough, physical defenseman for 14 NHL seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers, winning four Stanley Cups while piling up 1,890 penalty minutes, 19th all-time among defensemen.
"I see similar styles, but I'll never be the player my dad was," Brock said. "He was a tough-nosed defenseman who loved to get his nose dirty. He fought all the time. I'm not going to be the guy that fights all the time. For me, I've got to keep it simple, play physical, skate with the puck when I can, make that good first outlet pass. But I'll never be the same player as my dad."
"I see him more as a much better skater than I ever was," said Jeff, currently an assistant coach with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves. "I think he's going to be more of an in-between defenseman, good offensively, good penalty-killer. He doesn't quite have my size yet (Jeff played at 6-5, 230). He'll be a more-rounded, more-complete player."
Archibald helps complete Beukeboom's game on and off the ice.
"He's more like his dad, plays a rough and tough game, likes to play the body a lot," Archibald said. "I can lay back, I like to read the play a little bit more and jump up in the rush."
Off the ice, the pair likes to have fun the way most college-age roommates do.
"There's a lot of video games down in the basement," said Archibald. "We'll compete at it pretty hard." Who's better? "If it's a sports game I usually win," Archibald said, "but if it's anything else he takes it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org