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Adam Beckman Got A True Taste Of Pro Hockey This Season

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy (USA TODAY Sports)

A young rookie stood out as the Minnesota Wild fine-tuned their roster during training camp. So much so that he was almost able to seize one of the last spots in the starting lineup. No, it wasn’t rookie sensation Matt Boldy or promising center Marco Rossi. Adam Beckman had four goals in four preseason games and grabbed all the headlines. Ultimately, he was one of the last cuts of camp. Minnesota sent him down to Iowa for his first full season as a pro, much to the dismay of many who thought he had truly earned his spot.

You can be forgiven if you forgot this small anecdote in a season filled with trade deadline action, overflowing Venmo accounts, and record-shattering performances. However, the Wild looked to their farm team for multiple call-ups this season. Even more so as of late, given a myriad of veterans attempting to heal from injuries before the playoffs. It’s a little worrisome that the final cut from training camp hasn’t made another appearance with the big club since his three-game stint in early November.

Was that hot streak in October just a mirage? Or are we simply seeing a young player struggle in his first pro season? His head coach in Iowa seems to think it’s the latter.

“You know, he’s only 20,” Tim Army told Zone Coverage earlier this month. “This is why they play in the American Hockey League, so they can begin to acquire the resources to be a good pro.”

Yet Beckman performed at a much higher level last year in his nine-game stint with Iowa. He posted three goals and two assists before returning back to the WHL. It was a small sample size, but Beckman had scored at an elite clip at every level. Many thought his performance in training camp would lead to a breakout campaign in the AHL.

However, Army was quick to point out how crucial it is to not compare any AHL stats from last season to this year. “He played a few games for us last year, but that was a different American League. With the taxi squads and the COVID mandates, it just wasn’t (the same.)”

He’s not wrong. With the expanded rosters employed by the NHL last year to help teams at the peak of the pandemic, the level of competition in the AHL was far inferior to what it is now. The taxi squads virtually eliminated every top line (and sometimes more), every top defense pairing, and at least one quality goalie from every team. While Beckman may have scored at a 28-goal pace in limited minutes last year, his coach knew it would be more difficult for him at age 20 than it was at 19.

“This is the real American League again,” he said. “Every team he’s competing against, the defensemen are either good young defenseman, or good veteran defenseman that are smart, that are big, that are mobile. You’re playing against the best goalies that you could face at this level. And you’re getting forward lines, where it’s the same thing with the depth of the forward lines.”

Beckman seemed to agree with his coach’s assessment. When asked what may have been the most challenging experience of his first full pro season, the young sniper was honest in his response.

“This league’s tough and everybody knows that,” Beckman said. “Every day’s a battle. … That’s one of the biggest things you learn about playing pro hockey is it’s a job, and you’ve got to be ready to go every day. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned. I’ve got to continue to work on it in order to be successful.”

His coach thinks the best is yet to come for Beckman, claiming, “He’s going to be a good player. I think he’ll make a big jump next year.”

Army further elaborated on why he expects an improvement from Beckman’s 11-goal, 34-point season.

“Beck has good speed, he’s got a good shot, and he’s got a goal scorer’s instincts,” he said. “When he uses his legs, he creates space and he can make plays out of that space. He’s done just fine for a 20-year-old. It’s been a really good year for him, it’s just the strength factor. It’s engaging and winning battles in situations that allow you to separate with the puck. That’s where you create offense. And right now he gets a little overrun. He’s not confident enough in it yet. It’s just part of the process. He’s 20. What’s Becky going to be when he’s 23 or 24?”

Army’s assessment on needing to add strength was one of the things Guerin and the Wild coaching staff stressed to Beckman when he was first sent down to Iowa. “[The Wild wanted me to] continue to get stronger and work on my overall game,” he said when thinking back to that meeting before further adding, “I think getting the chance to play different types of minutes is big down here, and I think that’s what the focus was.”

The Iowa Wild barely missed out on a playoff berth, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Beckman called up as one of the black aces for the Wild’s playoff run. After that, he departs into his first off-season as a professional hockey player. The Wild will undoubtedly give him another chance to earn a roster spot in training camp next season. However, if he doesn’t make another splash in the fall and is sent back to Iowa again, Army stressed it wasn’t a bad sign. It’s all just part of the journey of a young hockey player attempting to make it to the NHL.

“He’s [going to] be a really good player,” he said. “There’s no panic, there’s no rush, it’s just he’s only 20 and this is a big step. It’s part of the process.”

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Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy (USA TODAY Sports)

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