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Canadiens Interview: Top Prospect Owen Beck Excited For Future

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montreal canadiens owen beck mvp

Montreal Canadiens prospect Owen Beck enjoyed a storybook ending to his Canadian Hockey League (CHL) career.

Not only did he win a Memorial Cup alongside the Saginaw Spirit, he was also named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, one of the most difficult achievements in hockey. It’s an honour he now shares with current and former NHL stars, including Leon Draisaitl, Corey Perry, Nathan MacKinnon, Mitch Marner, Scott Niedermayer, and Alexander Radulov, among others.

Owen Beck Delivers Saginaw Pride

Winning the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the tournament’s MVP isn’t something he necessarily anticipated when he started playing in the Ontario Hockey League, and though he recognizes it’s a fantastic honour that he will be able to reference for the rest of his life, Beck points to the first championship in Saginaw Spirit franchise history as the greatest accomplishment this season.

You’ll note this is a common occurrence when discussing achievements with Owen Beck. He tends to push the conversation toward team success rather than individual accolades.

“It was great. Especially a Memorial Cup championship, since it’s the hardest trophy to win in Junior hockey,” said Beck. “We know we earned our right to be there, and management did a great job putting together that team. We were so amped up with the community supporting us, it was a special moment. Everyone on that team can look back in 20 or 30 years and know we were a part of a special run.”

To deliver the first championship in Saginaw, the Spirit had to overcome a team that represented their downfall in previous matchups.

The 2023-24 edition of the London Knights was one of the most talented teams in recent OHL history, as evidenced by their relatively easy run to the league championship that included three series sweeps. The only team that managed to put up a fight was the Spirit, though they eventually bowed out in six games during the Western Conference semifinal.

To make matters even more interesting, the Knights dispatched Saginaw in a hard-fought Memorial Cup round-robin game that ended with a 4-2 win for London.

Saginaw had one final opportunity to beat their rivals and etch their names in CHL history during the tournament’s championship game, but to do so they would take a different approach.

“We stopped worrying about what they were going to do,” said Beck. “We were focused on what we needed to do as a team. We played them a million times this year, so we had a general idea of what we were facing. We took that strategy and ran with it.”

Rather than attempting to limit the damage from the Knights, the Spirit set the tone thanks to a pair of first-period goals by Beck that displayed his great shot and top-notch work rate.

“The Memorial Cup final coming down to London and Saginaw proves these are two of the best teams in the league, explains Beck. “That’s not to say the QMJHL and WHL did not produce good teams, but it just seemed to be a year that the OHL was extremely talented, and those two teams worked incredibly hard to build up a great playoff run.”

On top of scoring the first two goals of the game, Beck brought intense physical play to the table for the Spirit, something he’s been working on ever since teams at the Scouting Combine suggested he needed to add more truculence to his game.

His physical prowess was on full display midway through the first period, when Beck lined up Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and Knights star Easton Cowan in the defensive zone. He notes that he wasn’t necessarily intent on delivering a huge body check. Rather, he was focused on defensive play, attempting to cut off any passing lane that would have given Cowan options to keep the play alive.

Owen Beck heads into every situation with two things on his mind. Either keep control of the puck, or separate the opponent from the puck. For him, delivering a monumental hit on someone like Cowan isn’t just a drop in the battle of attrition bucket, it’s also an important tool when it comes to maintaining momentum in a game.

“It came naturally, he said. “But we were looking to make things hard on players like Cowan, (Denver) Barkey, (Oliver) Bonk, and all their top guys. I was on the back check, scanning to look for a late player. He pulled up in the O zone to look for the late player, that wasn’t there. The opportunity arose when I noticed he had no options. So I just kept my momentum going and made the hit. It was a pretty big hit, but I was really trying to cover defensively first and foremost. Then I tried to finish my check.”

Owen Beck At The Montreal Canadiens Training Camp

Beck’s cerebral approach to hockey is what makes him such an interesting player. Sure, big hits are fun, but gaining control of the puck is what leads to scoring plays, and consequently, wins. With his defensive acumen, strong positioning, and excellent skating, he has a penchant for quickly turning defensive situations into offensive opportunities. It’s something that should serve him well as he prepares to take the biggest step in his hockey career.

Despite finishing the year on a high note, Beck is well aware the pendulums will be reset once he arrives in Montreal to take part in the Canadiens training camp. It will be incredibly difficult to earn a job in the NHL, but given the history between himself and the franchise, he’s not going to worry about the specifics.

Much like how Saginaw approached the final game of the Memorial Cup, Beck is focused on what he needs to do, rather than the competition at camp.

“I don’t want to go in there with a particular role in mind,” he said. “I’ve come to really trust the decisions made by management in Montreal. Having gone back for one last year in Junior was such a great learning experience for me, it’ll definitely benefit me in the long run. I’m going to camp with an open mind. I have expectations of how I’d like to perform, but it’s all about showcasing myself as a hockey player and showing what I can do to help the team win. I trust that the best decision will be made for me and the organization.”

That level of trust in the organization was always present, but it’s only fair to say a certain member of the Canadiens development team pushed it to a new level. Throughout the year there was a constant link with Paul Byron, who would analyze video footage and send recommendations, along with encouragement, to Owen Beck.

“It’s a perfect situation, he just left the NHL, and I’m just transitioning into that role,” he explained. “We looked at a lot of video, he gave me some really amazing suggestions for changes in my game and adjustments I could make, not to mention improvements and positive reinforcement as well. He would jot down notes, and send me the clips with overlays of the suggestions.

“I spoke with him a fair bit, he’s the person from the team I spoke to most. But it was never to put any pressure on me, it was just to help me throughout the season. It was an awesome relationship and resource for me.”

The Next Step For Owen Beck

Beck is a hard-working player with elite face off abilities and a well-established 200-foot game, which should endear him to someone like Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis, but he knows there are no guarantees he will start next season in the NHL.

“Especially at my age, I’d be happy to fill any role, even if I have to play goalie,” said the 20-year-old. “I’ll trust their decisions and play any role I am given. I have my strengths that I believe would suit a certain role, but that’s not up to me. I simply have to seize the chance I am given.”

With a carpe diem attitude, a high level of respect toward St-Louis, and a skill set that should translate well to the professional ranks, Beck’s NHL aspirations seem to be more of a matter of when, not if. He also fits into the ideal age grouping established by Kent Hughes, something that he acknowledges could lead to a special bond in one of the youngest rosters in the NHL.

“That’s super exciting for the team, the city of Montreal, and what’s going to come in the next few years,” he said. “If you can build a team largely through the draft and be able to acquire some pieces to complement that, it brings exciting times in the near future. The fact that everyone is close in age means everyone is going to grow together. When you grow as a team, it can bring a lot of success down the road.”

As for the players who are heading to Las Vegas to take part in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, Beck has some simple, yet poignant advice for the prospects who may end up playing alongside him in the NHL one day.

“Enjoy the draft,” he says. “They’ve done all the work they can do, gone through the combine, done their interviews, there’s nothing that can really change when it comes to the actual draft. You’ll get drafted where you’ll get drafted, and that’ll be a huge honour. Enjoy that with your family.”

But in typical Beckian fashion, his final piece of advice for future draft picks focuses on what matters most when it comes to earning a job in the best league in the world.

“The work really starts now. When you put it into perspective, there are so many talented athletes and hockey players that are trying to do the same thing as you. You have to find a way to earn a job at the highest level of hockey. It won’t be easy, but it’s an exciting time.”