Though they may not want to use the word, Montreal Canadiens are in the midst of a rebuild, and for Kent Hughes and Co., this means prioritizing development over short-term success.
This also affords the opportunity to give prospects a chance to play in the best league in the world, should they prove ready.
Prospects such as Owen Beck.
Who is Montreal Canadiens Prospect, Owen Beck?
Owen Beck was the first pick of the second round (33rd overall), at the 2022 NHL draft. The Montreal Canadiens scouting staff seemed delighted to nab the Ontario-born centerman as their third selection of that draft, as they felt they picked the best player available for a second day in a row.
A few little months later, the 19-year-old prospect surprisingly signed his entry-level contract after an impressive showing at camp, showcasing all of his poise, faultless decision-making, and defensive acumen. This contract will take him to RFA status, at the end of the 25-26 season.
During his draft year, Owen Beck made quite the impression as a two-way centerman in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), tallying 51 points in 68 games (0.75 PPG), while maintaining the best faceoff efficiency in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
His penchant for winning faceoffs was something the Habs scouting staff were obviously aware of and considered thoroughly in their evaluation of the player some pundits dub ‘Shane Wright lite’.
The following year, Beck took an extra step offensively, improving his record to 66 points in 60 games (1.1 PPG), and joining Team Canada for three games en route to World Junior Championship gold.
Beck was used in a much different role once he was traded from the Steelheads to the Petes, which explains why there was a downtick in production. Many see this as a reason to suggest Beck struggled to produce, but that’s ignoring the context in which he was used.
When examining the underlying numbers, it’s s clear that Beck played a very important role for Peterborough, both offensively and defensively.
Owen Beck, the king of well-rounded tracking data.
Offence stayed steady with PBO despite the dip in points. Strong defensive and transition results. One of the very best at creating space for his teammates (advantages created, off-puck assists). Always attacks the inside. https://t.co/dnsIJR02BX pic.twitter.com/BYWJyDkjfi
— Mitchell Brown (@MitchLBrown) June 26, 2023
He also had the privilege of joining the Montreal Canadiens for a one-game emergency recall, yet another interesting development during a very busy season for the Port Hope native.
Beck capped an already impressive year with an incredible playoff performance, carrying his underdog Peterborough Petes to an OHL championship, upsetting overwhelming favourites in the process, including Logan Mailloux’s powerhouse London Knights in the finals.
Beck is incredibly cerebral, responsible, and efficient.
The 6-foot, 190 lbs, right-handed centerman is always in the right place, making the right plays. The maturity he possesses feels beyond his years, and there’s little concern over his ability to transition into a pro player, once deemed ready.
He’s a fantastic forechecker and creates turnovers and interceptions seemingly on every shift.
With the puck on his stick, he’s very calm and more often than not opts for high-percentage plays over risky passes or dekes, making him a coach’s favourite.
His offensive abilities are also excellent, as he possesses a decent shot and anticipates where to find open teammates before the puck even arrives on his stick.
He’s an incredibly smart player who has top-6 upside but can very safely project as a bottom-6 checker if his offence doesn’t translate to the NHL.
Beck is the true definition of a 200-foot player, and could very well vie for Jake Evan’s spot in the VERY near future, cementing himself as a middle-six C fixture, for years to come.
Here are some of his highlights from the 2022-23 season.
Areas to improve
Owen Beck isn’t overly physical, but that never prevented him from having success. Y’know, brains over brawn. Though you could argue that Beck has become a much more physical player since he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens.
And while he could be improving that aspect of his game, there’s no indication that he necessarily needs to in order to thrive in the NHL.
But if we’re really looking for areas to improve, his shot could be better. It’s good, but not elite.
Whenever the ‘Shane Wright lite’ comparisons are made, the biggest differentiator is always the ability to score from almost anywhere. That is where the Seattle Kraken’s protégé has the edge.
Odds of making the team
The biggest disadvantage for Beck’s case of making this Habs team is his AHL ineligibility.
Thanks to an archaic agreement between the OHL and the NHL which was put in place over 50 years ago, players such as Beck cannot benefit from working with the Canadiens’ development team as they develop in the AHL
This means Beck will play in the NHL or the OHL.
While it may seem like there isn’t much left for him to learn at the junior level, there may still be an extra step he needs to gain before making the NHL. With no urgency to see him graduate, he will likely be making his way back to Peterborough, which could lead to yet another blockbuster trade.
Returning to the OHL a 19-year-old leader should allow him considerable ice time, where he could benefit from those extra seconds of puck possession to further develop his offensive skills, execution speed, and confidence.
Logic dictates that if it was suitable for Nick Suzuki’s development, it may also pay off in Beck’s case.