Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
How does a player put a humble twist on being ignored in the Western Hockey League bantam draft to becoming a potential first-round pick in the NHL Draft three years later?
"I guess just work hard, getting better every day, and ignoring the critics," said defenseman Jake Bean of the Calgary Hitmen.
Bean should serve as the poster boy for every aspiring hockey player ever told he would never realize his dream of hearing his name at the NHL Draft.
After not being considered among 250 players by 22 teams at the 2013 WHL Draft, Bean posted 19 goals and 53 points in 57 games with Calgary's Edge Athletics in his bantam draft year in 2013-14. It was at Edge School where Bean began to get recognized for his consistent style along the blue line, along with chipping in offensively. That's when the Hitmen decided to give him a tryout.
"I guess I'm a little bit of a late bloomer," Bean said. "I might have rose up the ladder a little quicker than others the past few years, but maybe that's from a little lack of exposure earlier in my career. For me, the improvement hasn't been as major as maybe some others look at it."
Don't let Bean fool you. The left-handed defenseman is No. 15 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL draft.
He set a Hitmen record for rookie defensemen with 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 51 games in 2014-15. The former mark of 32 points was established by Matt Kinch in 1996-97. Kinch, a 1999 fifth-round pick (No. 146) by the Buffalo Sabres, never played a game in the NHL.
Bean set a Hitmen record for most goals (24) by a defenseman this season; passing the former mark (23) by Paul Postma in 2008-09. Bean was first among WHL defensemen in goals and power-play goals (12), and was sixth with 64 points in 68 games. Postma was taken in the seventh round (No. 205) by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2007 draft and played in 125 NHL games with the Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
Many scouts believe Bean will play in the NHL and make significant contributions.
"He's got great hands and great vision and has a really good shot," said John Williams of NHL Central Scouting. "He's one of the elite thinkers in the draft this year. He can make plays on the power play. I think over time, with more size and strength, he'll develop into a great player at the next level."
Does Bean feel compelled to prove wrong those who passed on him in his bantam year?
"Maybe, to some extent," he said. "Hockey is something I love to do. I don't think, for me, it's a matter of trying to stick it to the people who didn't really think of me as being too much before, but more just having fun and enjoying the experience."
Bean describes himself as a puck-moving defenseman who can play both ends. He enjoys playing big minutes and knows it's going to take a lot of commitment and sacrifice to become an NHL defenseman.
"A lot of things have to change about your lifestyle," he said. "You have to be a person who is grounded in every aspect of your life. I need to put in the time at and away from the rink, understand my body and when I need to take breaks, and when I need to give it my all."
His favorite player to watch is Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler.
"I like the game Cam Fowler plays because he's a smart D-man," Bean said. "He's underrated and not everyone sees the way he plays, but I like watching him and trying to play like him a little bit."
John Bean, Jake's father, is the chief operating officer of the Calgary Flames. The Flames are guaranteed no lower than the No. 8 pick in the 2016 NHL draft. The NHL Draft Lottery will be held Saturday.
Bean is recovering from a lower-body injury he sustained during the WHL Playoffs, but expects to attend and participate in the NHL Scouting Combine beginning May 30.
"The Hitmen coaching staff with [coach] Mark French and [assistant coach] Joel Otto is experienced and I got a lot of exposure to the pro lifestyle and what you need to do," Bean said. "As for my parents, they helped me along in this process and no matter what my aspirations are, they've been there as the most influential supporters."
Dan Marr, NHL Director of Central Scouting, believes Bean is one of the more intelligent and skillful defenders available in the draft.
"He's poised in all aspects of the game to get the job done, has an excellent shot and can score from the point or off the rush," Marr said. "He has good playmaking ability and a strong game at the offensive blue line. He's capable of becoming a game-breaker."