I want to play for the team that wants me the most. The team that aligns its values with mine and sees me playing in its organization is what is most important to me. - Jake Bean
An already sensational season is about to get a whole lot more memorable for Calgary Hitmen defenceman Jake Bean.
The highly sought-after rearguard has gone from representing the Western Hockey League at the Canada-Russia Series to suiting up for Team Orr at the CHL/NHL Prospects Game, to setting a single season franchise record for goals by a blueliner.
All notable achievements, to be sure.
But now the real fun starts.
Expectations are that Bean – astonishingly passed over at the 2013 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft – will hear his name called by the time the curtain closes on the first round of the NHL Draft in Buffalo.
As the top-ranked WHL prospect (15th among North American skaters), Bean admits there is value in being selected early.
“For sure there is, but the main thing is the right fit,” said Bean, who this week also earned an invite to Canada’s National Junior Team summer development camp.
Having sat down with representatives from 27 NHL teams at the recent Scouting Combine, though, means that the kid who has evolved from an unknown walk-on two years ago to a finalist for the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospect Award this season could be donning the cap and jersey of almost any team on the stage come Friday evening.
It will be, without a doubt, an eye-opening experience.
Not in the slightest.
“It’s just another step in my career,” a level-headed Bean said. “I want to play for the team that wants me the most. The team that aligns its values with mine and sees me playing in its organization is what is most important to me.”
Listed by his hometown Hitmen in 2014, Bean has impressively amassed 103 points over his first two WHL campaigns.
A bona fide scoring threat every time he carries the puck into the offensive zone, the freshly turned 18-year-old has developed into an intelligent blueliner with elite skating ability and exceptional poise with the puck.
His 64 points this past season topped all WHL draft eligible defencemen, while he led all league defenders in goals (24), power play goals (12) and game-winning goals (6).
What would be a whirlwind season, though, without a pinch of adversity?
The WHL Eastern Conference’s Most Sportsmanlike Player, who sustained a broken foot during Calgary’s first round series with Red Deer, was sidelined for the entire World U18 Championships – a tournament in which he was to be heavily relied on.
There is no cause for concern, however.
“I’m feeling good,” assured Bean, following an on-ice skate in Calgary. “I’m skating hard and doing a lot of off-ice stuff and I’m close to 100 percent. I feel 100 percent, but I’m just not cleared to do everything off the ice weight-wise.”
Former Hitmen winger Brandon Kozun, who Bean is taking part in off-season skates with, shared some advice for the much-hyped defenceman.
“Obviously my situation was a lot different than his, but I would say just enjoy the moment and do the best that you can,” said Kozun, a 2009 sixth round pick of the Los Angeles Kings who now suits up for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the Kontinental Hockey League. “It’s something that you don’t realize how fun it can be when you’re in the moment. You’re so busy with everything you don’t get a chance to step back.”
Overall, the Hitmen had a WHL-high six players recognized on NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings.
Joining Bean on that select list were teammates Carsen Twarynski (64th), Jordy Stallard (65th), Beck Malenstyn (73rd), Jakob Stukel (82nd) and netminder Cody Porter (20th among North American goalies).
“I think playing in the NHL is still a long ways away for me, but,” Bean said, “as long as I keep doing what I have been doing, and continue to have a good daily routine, then hopefully everything will work out.”
So far, so good.