After being placed on waivers by the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, Beech was snatched up by the Canucks Thursday morning. He touched down on the West Coast later that night and Vancouver’s newest acquisition skated for the first time in a Canucks uniform Friday morning.
“ I’m really excited to be here, “ said Beech. “ I never would have guessed it a couple of days ago, but when I heard I was claimed by the Canucks, I was really happy. “
Beech started the season with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, but his productive play (5-10-15) led to minutes with the Blue Jackets. He took advantage of the opportunity recording nine points (5-4-9) in 16 games and the Canucks are hoping he can continue to be productive.
Vancouver assistant coach Rick Bowness confirmed that Beech, who has 189 games of NHL experience under his belt, will play his first game as a Canuck on Friday, giving the 26-year-old a chance to shine right away.
“ He’s a big body, with good skills and he’ll be given opportunity to show us exactly what he can do, so we’ll let his play do the talking for us, “ said Bowness. “ We’re hearing some good reports and if he can back that up, then we’ve got a good player on our hands. “
The 6-foot-3, 211-pound native of Salmon Arm, BC is expected to fight for a regular spot in the line-up, although he’ll have one less competitor as forward Jason Jaffray was re-assigned to Manitoba Friday afternoon.
Beech will take Jaffray’s spot against the Coyotes, and there’s no denying he’s excited to play right away, but he isn’t about to get caught up in who’s in and out of the line-up. He’s more focused on what he needs to do to be successful.
“ I’m here to play smart, solid hockey, “ said Beech. “ That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I plan on continuing to do. Whatever ways that helps out, that’s how it’s going to work for me.
“ I’ll just try to play smart and create chances out there. I’m not exactly the flashiest guy and you can’t expect flashiness from me, but I just play a solid game. “
Bowness believes that although Jaffray has been a solid contributor to the Canucks since being called up from the Moose in early December, Beech’s experience might give them a little extra.
“ With the injury to Brendan Morrison, that’s a big hole for our line-up and Jaffray has done a wonderful job for us; we’re hoping Beech is another level yet, “ said Bowness.
“ He’s got good hands and he’s played very well for Columbus this year. They ran into a numbers situation and I think that’s why they put him back on waivers. But we like his hands, he’s a big guy who can move the puck, make some plays and can hopefully score some goals. “
Since the Washington Capitals drafted him seventh overall in the 1999 draft, Beech has played for four NHL teams, with 65 points and 111 penalty minutes in 189 games. It’s been an up and down career for Beech thus far because with the exception of a 79 game season in Pittsburgh in 2001-02, and a 64 game season last year with the Capitals, he’s been a regular on redeye flights between his NHL team and their AHL affiliates.
Bouncing between leagues is never fun, so Beech is hoping his stay with the team he grew up admiring will be an extended one. Either way, he’s just happy to be playing on Canadian soil. It goes without saying that Columbus isn’t a hotbed for hockey.
“ It’s exciting being here, “ said Beech. “ Other places I’ve played there’s only been a couple of writers kicking around and not too much coverage, and even fan support hasn’t been great. “
It’s been a whirl win 48 hours for Beech, but it’s nothing compared to the frenzy of media coverage and fan support he’s about to receive.