Forget the modest college production. John Beecher now feels he has his touch.
After posting three goals and two assists in his nine-game professional debut last year at the AHL level for Providence, and scoring three goals in three games at last week’s NHL rookie tournament in Buffalo, the 30th pick in the 2019 draft feels he’s right where he wants to be.
“Coming from Michigan with a star-studded team, not getting every opportunity, it’s definitely huge for every player to see the puck going in the net,” Beecher said Thursday, after the Bruins’ first day of training camp. “Coming off last weekend, I’m trying to carry that momentum into training camp and hopefully a couple preseason games.”
In 2018-19, entering his draft year, Beecher popped home 15 goals and 43 points in 63 games for the US Under-18 team. A decent season, but he was overshadowed by the likes of Jack Hughes (112 points), Cole Caufield (100), Trevor Zegras (87), Matt Boldy (81) and Cam York (65).
At Michigan the following three seasons, the Elmira, N.Y., product didn’t break out, putting up 19 goals and 39 points in 81 games. That modest production, on a Wolverines team that would see an NCAA-record seven players go in the first round of the draft, had Beecher a bit frustrated, and some observers a bit concerned his development had stalled.
“Everybody wants every opportunity,” he said. “I had talks with [Michigan] coaches, and teammates, and captains. I wanted to do whatever I could to help our team win. Obviously, we had an unbelievable year. I figured if I could do my best on the penalty kill and 5-on-5, just giving my teammates everything I could, it would lead to success.”
Beecher is hardly a finished product.
“I’m only 21 years old,” he said. “I’m definitely not at the peak of my career yet. I’ve put a lot of hard work in over the last six months. I’m excited to show everybody what I’ve got now.”
Beecher, who trained with fellow forward hopeful Jack Studnicka over the summer, said he worked on his “attack mentality,” noting he’s been a pass-first center. He also dropped some 10 pounds (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), shedding the extra bulk while injured (shoulder, thumb) last season.
“The third game we had [in Buffalo],” he said, “it was probably the best my legs had felt all weekend. I was a little bit nervous coming off the summer and playing three [games] in four [days], but the legs held up well.”
Coach Jim Montgomery, getting his first look at his charges as camp opened, was impressed.
“I thought he was really good today,” said Montgomery, who is looking at the left-shooting Beecher as a center, rather than a wing. “His speed looked really good. I liked how he attacked the middle of the ice and kicked pucks out and drove to hard ice. It was a really good first day.”
Update from Grzelcyk
Four months after shoulder surgery, Matt Grzelcyk began shooting pucks again Monday. His range of motion is there, and his shoulder is no longer as stiff at night and in the morning.
“It was kind of a long few months to end the year,” said the puck-moving defenseman, who is on track to return around Thanksgiving. “Happy to feel a little more like myself. Still have a long ways to go, but the light’s at the end of the tunnel.”
Grzelcyk dislocated his right shoulder on a January hit from Winnipeg’s Pierre-Luc Dubois , and he knew immediately he would need surgery. The second half of the season was miserable for him. He finished 4-20—24 in 73 games, and went scoreless while suiting up for five of the Bruins’ seven playoff games.
“It was tough,” he said. “But we’re going for it every year, and you want to be on the ice.”
Grzelcyk’s new defensive coach is a familiar face. John Gruden coached Grzelcyk (and teammates Connor Carrick and Connor Clifton) on the 2011-12 US Under-18 squad in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“He’s a great guy,” Grzlecyk said of the former Islanders assistant, adding that their initial video studies have been “a lot more about jumping up in the play” on breakout. “Just if I dish it to my partner, I know I can get up in the play more, not hang back. That’s always exciting for me.”
Lysell shows potential
Montgomery split two practice groups into veterans and younger players, the former teaching the latter “the Bruins way.” One pairing of note: Patrice Bergeron and Fabian Lysell (with Pavel Zacha as their left wing).
“I think it’s important you give players you think have the potential to play in those spots,” Montgomery said, “the opportunity to play in those spots.”
Montgomery on Lysell: “Dynamic, how he attacks people’s feet. He makes defensemen face him. Good offensive players will manipulate defensemen’s feet. He understands how to do that already, so he’s going to make plays” …
Left-shot defender Jakub Zboril started camp on the right side, which could be his ticket to early playing time … A couple new Montgomery wrinkles: a hard lap between early drills, and a 2-on-2 mini-game, rather than the 3-on-3 that Bruce Cassidy favored. Jake DeBrusk said, “I wouldn’t say there’s too much of a difference that’s noticeable.” … Best shot of the day came from Charlie Coyle, who sniped Jeremy Swayman’s water bottle in a 2-on-2 drill … Clifton (5-11, 175) had no problem dumping Beecher in front of the net, registering the pop of the day. Clifton’s physicality continues to surprise forwards … Jakub Lauko got up flexing his left leg after taking the worst of a three-man collision behind the net, but he didn’t miss a shift, and hammered a slapper past François Brassard in a later drill … Is the Swayman-Linus Ullmark goalie hug coming back? “We’ll see,” Ullmark said. “I wouldn’t mind doing it. We’ve said that many times before, we always did it for ourselves, it’s not a PR trick or anything like that. We’ll just have to wait and see until that first game what’s going to happen.”