2016 NHL Draft: Jake Bean’s Upside is Sky-High

Jake Bean didn't just set a franchise record for goals by a defender, he also led the entire CHL in the cateogry this season. | Photo: Brad Watson, Calgary Hitmen

Jake Bean didn’t just set a franchise record for goals by a defender, he also led the entire CHL in the category this season with 24. | Photo: Brad Watson, Calgary Hitmen

When talking about defensemen available at the Montreal Canadiens’ ninth overall, the names most frequently tossed around are Jakob Chychrun, Mikhail Sergachev, and Olli Juolevi. But the Calgary Hitmen’s Jake Bean absolutely deserves to be in this discussion.

As a 17-year-old, Bean set the Hitmen franchise record with 24 goals by defencemen, while also playing quality three-zone hockey.

NAMEG1A2APP/GPPrim. P/GP
Bean241921640.9410.632
Chychrun111820490.790.468
Sergachev172317570.8510.597
Juolevi91814410.7190.474

The above stats are from Prospect-Stats.com. The best website on the internet. Seriously.

Beyond the basic statistics, Bean’s game is incredibly impressive. What makes Bean so lethal as a shooter is that he’s unique for a defender. His puck skills are outrageously good, showcasing shooting, stickhandling, vision, and sense that would be impressive for a high-scoring forward.

As 24 goals would suggest, Bean can score goals, and he scores them in a variety of ways. His slapshot is heavy and accurate, while his snapshot possesses a ridiculously quick release along with the pinpoint accuracy. He can overwhelm goalies with his sheer power and/or pick a tiny hole with his accuracy.

Bean’s ability to find shooting lanes is impeccable. Through a combination of glorious edge work, soft hands, and all sorts of fakes, Bean waltzes through traffic with ease and then wires a shot. He activates off the blue line like few do, and always makes his pinches count.

There’s more to Bean’s offensive game than just a great shot, too. Although he certainly drifts into the role of a shooter (Partly because of Travis Sachem’s efficiency at puck distribution), he has shown the ability to run a powerplay and make offence happen through his distribution. Bean showcases an ability to find and exploit passing lanes, although not at quite the same efficiency as with shooting.

Bean isn’t one to often lead a rush, but it’s certainly another weapon in his arsenal. He prefers to utilize his crisp breakout pass to make controlled zone exits. He has a bit of a tendency to throw pucks away along the boards when a pass was a better option, but for the most part his breakout decisions are smart.

The Travis Sanheim Effect

As alluded to earlier, the Sanheim effect is a powerful one. By my estimation, Sanheim is the second-best WHL defender, only behind Ivan Provorov. Bean and Sanheim are partners, and it certainly benefits Bean. Sanheim is the primary puck-rusher, as it is arguably his best trait. When Bean gets into trouble, Sanheim is often there to quickly move the puck out.

In the offensive zone, few distribute the puck like Sanheim does. His vision is incredible, and he seemingly always gets the puck into Bean’s wheelhouse, even while under pressure.

However, this works both ways. Although Bean isn’t as strong in his own zone, nor is he as capable of a puck-rusher, he still does both at a solid level. He also constantly provides Sanheim with a passing option. They feed off each and work incredibly well together.

Defence Isn’t Everything

The biggest complaints are about Bean always stem from his defensive zone play, and I’m the first to agree. But when a player is this talented and this skilled at producing offence, how important is his defensive game?

Bean positional style of defence is quite effective. He’s good at defending one-on-ones due to an active stick and his edge work. He certainly isn’t the type to get walked through or give forwards easy chances.

The complaints mainly stem from this: Ability to win battles. Bean is rail thin, which isn’t surprising given his lack of effectiveness in battles. However, strength isn’t everything in battles, and Bean also must learn how to properly protect the puck with his body and engage more often. Getting stronger and improving body positioning are two things that I believe are fixable.

Bean does run into trouble while facing faster forwards. Although a smooth skater, Bean’s first-step is a little clumsy, making his acceleration merely average. Once again, this is something that can be improved with increasing strength and technique.

It’s important to ask: How much time does Bean spend in the defensive zone? The answer is not much. Sanheim certainly helps out, but Bean spends the majority of his time in the offensive zone, where he’s at his best. As he advances up the levels, he certainly has quite a bit to work on, but his offensive upside could land him in the offensive zone more often than not–even in the NHL.

Increasing strength and technique to win battles can be improved more so and easier than decision-making or hockey sense, in my opinion. While I do not believe that Bean projects as a defensive stalwart, his biggest flaw(s) can be fixed easier than flaws related to mental components.

Conclusion

Bean’s skill level and hockey sense are demonstrated across the ice, not just in the offensive zone. He has work to do, but I do not see Bean’s defensive game as a result of poor decision-making, but rather a lack of strength and some small ailments.

I’ll reiterate: I believe that Bean’s possesses the highest offensive upside of any draft eligible defenceman. It’s through strengths–tremendous shooting, vision, and sense–and my confidence in the ease at which his flaws can be fixed that I believe this. Jakob Chychrun and Mikhail Sergachev both have problems related to their decision-making, and already possess filled-out and powerful frames, whereas Olli Juolevi lacks Bean’s dynamism.

That is not to say that I believe with certainty that Bean will be the best overall defender in the draft class, but I think he certainly deserves to be in the discussion. At ninth overall, Bean could be a tremendous pick. The type of home-run swing that Canadiens desperately need.

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