In recent years, one of the most reliable producers of high-end talent for the NHL Draft has been the U.S. National Development Program. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the National Development Program is a deep group this year. One of their more intriguing prospects is centre John Beecher.
Originally from Elmira, New York – the same town that produced Flames draft pick and current New York Rangers prospect Adam Fox – Beecher is a big, skilled left shot forward. He’s listed as 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, and he would provide some depth and big-game experience at a crucial position.
Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino had Beecher in his projected first round back in October and provided an assessment:
One of the more cerebral players in this draft class in that he’s not flashy and doesn’t dazzle you with any particular part of his game. However, with his size and ability to play a complete game, he almost always finds a way to contribute.
Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects praised Beecher’s two-way game:
A complete centre who prides himself on his 200-foot game. Strong skating and puck protection highlight his game. Doesn’t display a high-end offensive ceiling, but his projectable frame and responsible game will be useful at the next level.
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports provided another rundown:
Beecher has the size, skating and defensive game to be an effective forward in the NHL. His offensive game shows flashes but questions remain. Will he produce more with more ice time and some opportunities on the power play? Is there untapped offensive potential there? The team that drafts him could have a real steal if they are willing to be patient.
The scouting consensus is that Beecher is a very reliable, responsible two-way player who simply hasn’t yet put up showy offensive numbers on a pretty stacked National Development Team.
Breaking down Beecher’s production, he had 63 points in 100 games with the National Development Team split between their United States Hockey League play and games in other competitions. His numbers skew more towards puck distribution than shooting, as he has far more assists than goals. He also took a ton of penalties during the season.
From a production standpoint, Beecher was in a weird spot. He was the eighth or ninth-best skater offensively for his team this past season. He was behind Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, Matthew Boldy, Trevor Zegras, Alex Turcotte, Cam York and Michael Gildon, and was about as productive as Patrick Moynihan and Domenick Fensore. The challenge there is that he was playing behind six stronger offensive forwards most of the time and therefore got less opportunity to make hay in offensive situations, but he also didn’t really do enough with the time he had to kick the proverbial door down and grab hold of more ice time.
He was a productive player for the National Development Team, but he was a sizable notch offensively behind the top draft prospects on his team.
Availability and fit
Opinions on where Beecher fits within the first round group vary considerably. ISS has him outside the first round, Dobber Prospects has him 52nd, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 28th, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 43rd, Sportsnet has him outside the first round, The Athletic has him 32nd and 98th, and The Hockey News has him 35th. If this sample is representative of NHL scouting departments, he would definitely be available in at 26th overall – and would probably be available later on, should the Flames think about trading down.
Beecher has a lot of attributes that the Flames would likely value. He’s big. He plays a smart two-way game. While he doesn’t have showy offensive numbers, scouts praise his fundamentals to the point where you can be reasonably convinced that his scoring stat line might explode if he was given the chance. He’s likely a project pick and he’s headed to the University of Michigan, so he’ll be given a chance to develop in the NCAA ranks. He’s arguably one of the less exciting players the Flames could select at 26th overall, but there’s definitely some value there.