|Kyle Beach has put up big power forward numbers in the Western Hockey League, despite the fact he suffered two concussions and recently underwent hernia surgery.
It just figures Kyle Beach would go into the 2008 NHL Entry Draft as one of the top-rated players.
The 18-year-old forward from the Everett Silvertips was the Western Hockey League's rookie of the year last season. He followed that with an interesting season in 2007-08, including a pair of concussions that have raised questions in the minds of some scouts.
Beach figured to be here not just because of his size -- 6-foot-3, 203 pounds -- or the 56 goals and 65 assists he posted in two junior seasons. Beach is the son of a pair of top athletes. His mom, Rhonda, won gold in women's volleyball for British Columbia at the 1979 Canada Winter Games in Brandon, Man. Beach's parents both were excellent volleyball players who gifted their son with a pair of skates when he was two weeks old.
Kyle Beach wore his hockey helmet to bed until he was four years old. And the family athleticism doesn't stop at the threshold of the Beach homestead. His second cousin, Rich Harden, is a pitcher for the Oakland A's.
Beach is one of the most interesting draft candidates. He's rated seventh among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, but could go higher or lower based on his attributes and concerns about his health. His positives include his ability to score and make plays, his leadership, his physicality and his positive outlook. His negatives include two concussions and some concerns over his defensive abilities, excessive penalties and being coachable.
"His future is basically in his own hands," said Silvertips vice-president and general manager Doug Soetaert, a 12-year NHL veteran who won the Stanley Cup with the 1986 Montreal Canadiens. "He's a big-time power forward, he's got unbelievable hands, and he can play mean and nasty. And as long as he plays the game in the right way, he's got a good chance to succeed in the National Hockey League."
Beach suffered a couple of concussions this season; the second worse than the first.
"I sat out a couple of games just before Christmas, mostly as a precaution," said Beach. "I missed two games against Portland, so that gave me four days' rest. The second one came in January when I was sucker-punched by Chris Bruton (the captain of the Spokane Chiefs). It's on YouTube. It's pretty bad.
"We had a scrum after the game and I grabbed Mitch Wahl and gave him a facewash. I tried to push off him, so I'm looking away from Bruton and he hit me. That concussion cost me two weeks. I played 60 of our 72 games and the doctors are telling me I'm fine.
"I'm going to have collisions because that's the style of game I play. I have to be aware of the potential for a head injury and protect myself when situations arise.
"I have a reputation that grew with me from peewees to bantams to midgets to junior. But I heard an interesting comment this week in one of my interviews. Someone said it's wiser to try to tame a tiger than paint stripes on a pussycat."
Beach made a strong impression a year ago when he was the WHL's top rookie. He credits his coaching for easing his transition into junior hockey.
"The rookie-of-the-year honour was special, especially because I was jumping in as a 16-year-old," said Beach. "My coach last year, Kevin Constantine, was a great role model for my first year in the WHL. He made it an easy and positive transition. He encouraged me and challenged me and gave me every opportunity to play. I owe him a debt of thanks and great credit. I played with good players like Zach Hamill, Peter Mueller, Dan Gendur and Moises Gutierrez.
"John Becanic replaced Kevin this year and that was definitely an interesting transition because John has been Kevin's assistant coach for a long time and it was a good chance for him to become a head coach. John did a great job and had a lot to offer. I learned a lot of things that I didn't know, including different aspects of the game. John helped support me and moved my game to the next level."
Beach was off to a very good start this past season, scoring well and, according to one report, drawing more penalties than he took. He slipped in December and in the second half of the year took more penalties than he drew and slacked off a bit in scoring.
There may be another reason for the dip, one that hasn't been publicized. Beach was excused from physical testing at the NHL scouting combine at the end of May because he recently had hernia surgery. Hernias can have a major impact on a hockey player.
Beach said he'd love to be picked in the top 10 at the draft at Scotiabank Place and sees no reason why that can't happen based on the number of interviews he had during the combine and the tone of those interviews.
"I'm scheduled for 28 interviews," Beach said during the combine. "The questions range all the way from my brother to other players to things you do off the ice. You never know what to expect. When you come out of an interview, there's a bit of a sigh of relief that you got through it. There haven't been any questions that made me think I didn't do well. I give honest answers and if someone doesn't like it, well ... I just answer as honestly as possible. You can't hide anything; teams will find out.
"The NHL teams that want to draft me should know that I've got good size. I can play on the top two lines or the third and fourth line. I can play power play and penalty kill. I'm not afraid to drop the gloves and I'm not afraid to go into the corners. I can make the pass to the open guy or take advantage of my opportunities, particularly in the slot.
"I think I can be a power forward in the mold of a Keith Tkachuk or Tomas Holmstrom. I've tried to emulate Jarome Iginla, an unbelievable player and leader who will do what it takes to help his team. He's goes in corners, he shoots the puck and he protects himself and his teammates. Off the ice he's an unbelievable guy, a great idol and mentor who always has time for kids."
Author: John McGourty | NHL.com Staff Writer