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NHL Draft

Beecher impressing at USA Hockey's NTDP, improving 2019 Draft stock

Forward earns B rating on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2019 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

John Beecher immediately recognized he had passion for hockey.

Well, almost immediately. He had to get over that whole ice part of the game first.

"It was too slippery out there for me," said Beecher, a 17-year-old forward for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team. "We played a lot of street hockey, knee hockey and everything growing up.

"My brother [Bryce] was really into [hockey], so I finally put on the skates (at age 6) and went on the ice. ... Once I got the hang of it, I just kind of fell in love with it."

Beecher's father, Bill, signed him up for skating lessons with Cornell assistant women's coach Dean Jackson. Now, John's skating speed, form and technique are among the strong suits he brings along with his 6-foot-3, 204-pound frame.

Beecher, who has committed to the University of Michigan, earned a B rating on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, his first year of eligibility. Players with a B rating are considered possible second- or third-round choices

He has four assists in eight games this season.

"He's already got a pro frame and speed to go with it," NTDP coach John Wroblewski said. "His game is all predicated on that size and speed. There's really nothing in between. He's shown he can display his attributes at the highest level of amateur hockey right now, with him being able to play our game against 23, 24, 25-year-old men. It's been quite impressive to see that."

A native of Elmira, New York, Beecher played at Salisbury School, a prep school in Connecticut, where he had 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 30 games in 2016-17. He also spent the latter half of that season with the TPH Thunder Minor Midget Team, where he had two points (one goal, one assist) in four games in the OHL Cup.

Beecher blossomed during his first year with the NTDP. His 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 60 games ranked sixth on an under-17 team full of high-end talent and skill including Matthew Boldy (76 points), Cole Caufield (63), Trevor Zegras (59), Jack Hughes (48) and Alex Turcotte (47).

"He's such a valuable component of what we have as a team, because we have a lot of players that I think people are enamored with in regard to their skill level, and John's skill is power and tempo and it's one that I feel is a commodity that's going to become a little bit rarer as we progress here," Wroblewski said. "There's such an emphasis on individual skill development, and to have that big power forward that can play a 200-foot game and enjoy an abrasive style is huge.

"I think I would like to see him work on making plays in tight, being able to score in tight instead of just scoring on the rush and going hard to the net. ... I want to see him contribute more on the scoresheet. ...There's a lot of untapped areas in his game, and plenty of room for him to still grow."

Wroblewski points to New York Islanders forward Anders Lee and Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk as those who play similar roles to Beecher, who sees himself more like Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler.

"He's a big power forward, he can skate too," Beecher said. "So I think I could kind of be compared to him a little bit, obviously not completely, but I think that would close and be a pretty good fit."

"It's going to be an exciting year with the Draft at the end, but there's a lot of work leading up to it."

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