What Is The Future Of Kyle Beach?

As the regular season finishes for both the NHL and the AHL, at least 14 teams will begin evaluating their potential roster for next season next week. Others, including the Blackhawks, will have to wait until their playoffs end at some point between now and mid-June.

Every team, however, has already started looking ahead to this summer’s free agent class and the 2012 NHL Draft. General Managers have been taking stock of their organizational depth and evaluating their cap position for months. Who is untouchable? And who might be available at the right price?

One player who has been intriguing to Hawks fans since he was drafted is Kyle Beach. What does the future hold for the former first round pick?

The Blackhawks made Beach the 11th overall selection in a 2008 Draft class that was loaded with great young defensemen; among the players that followed Beach in that first round were Buffalo’s Tyler Myers (12), Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (15), the Ranger’s Michael Del Zotto (20) and Washingon’s John Carlson (27). Also selected in the first round that year was Jordan Eberle (22), who has 33 goals for Edmonton this year.

But Chicago, at that time, lacked size and didn’t have many (read: any) players in the organization that could replace the nastiness of a guy like Ben Eager. Then-GM Dale Tallon knew the organization needed someone with an edge, so he selected Beach.

Based on some scouting reports, the Blackhawks actually did pretty well to land Beach at 11 overall. Here’s one scout’s take on Beach from before the draft:

Earlier in the season Beach was in the top 5, but questions about his attitude have dropped his stock. If you can look past this supposed attitude problem, he is a solid player. The top, true power forward in the draft, drawing comparisons to Owen Nolan and Claude Lemieux. He plays with a nastiness that sometimes get him in to trouble. He can do it all, score, hit, and fight if need be.

He was coming off a solid season with the Everett Silvertips (60 points in 60 games), but his 222 penalty minutes were the reason some GMs opted to pass on him at the draft.

After being selected by Chicago, Beach went back to juniors and had another good season split between Everett and Lethbridge (both WHL); between the two clubs, he scored 24 goals and added 39 assists in 54 games. But with another 100-plus PIM season on his resume, the Hawks opted for him to spend one more year in juniors.

With Spokane (WHL) during the 2009-10 season, Beach exploded offensively and earned his entry-level contract from the Hawks. He scored 52 goals and added 34 assists in only 68 games, and was also hit for 186 penalty minutes. The timing of some of his penalties might have been questioned, but 52 goals in 68 games is something that makes a general manager take notice.

Once he signed with the Hawks, Beach went to Rockford for the 2010-11 season and struggled. He had a miserable minus-24 for his first professional season, and scored only 16 goals in 71 games. In fact, his 163 penalty minutes were the only part of his stat line that was in-line with expectations before the season began.

However, towards the end of the AHL season last year, Beach started to show signs that he was figuring out the AHL game. His production increased in the closing weeks of the year and there was cause for hope heading into the 2011-12 season in Rockford.

Unfortunately for Beach, when the Hawks brought some of the IceHogs to Chicago to skate with the NHL players during the playoffs, he wasn’t one of them.

When the 2011-12 training camp closed, Beach was a forgotten man for many Hawks fans. He was one of the first kids assigned to Rockford (on Sept. 26), and had to watch as other top prospects like Jeremy Morin, Ben Smith and Brandon Saad played well in the ice time they had with the NHL regulars.

To his credit, Beach jumped into a leadership role with the IceHogs and started this season off strong, scoring three goals and adding three assists in the season’s first eight games. But a shoulder injury in late-October took Beach away from the game for most of the rest of the regular season; he didn’t return to the IceHogs lineup until last week.

Beach has now played in 14 games with Rockford this season, and has scored five goals to go with five assists. He does have 24 penalty minutes, but his plus-minus is even on the season.

As we wrote back in October, Beach’s start to the seasonw as much more balanced and he was looking as much, if not more, to contribute offensively as he was to knock someone into the third row.

So Beach’s NHL career path is right back on track… right?

That’s where the question marks come up. Could Beach find himself becoming the Wally Pipp of the Hawks organization?

If you’re not familiar with the name Wally Pipp, he was an outstanding first baseman for the New York Yankees who, the year after posting 114 runs batted in, got sick and was forced to miss a game. He was replaced in the lineup by a 22-year-old Lou Gehrig, and the rest is history (literally). His name has become synonymous with bad luck.

Beach’s injury in late-October, coupled with an outstanding start to the season in his own right, led to 2011 fifth round draft pick Andrew Shaw getting an entry-level contract in January. Shaw was eventually recalled to Chicago, and 11 goals later he’s been skating and producing all over the Hawks lineup during the second half of the season.

One has to wonder, if he was healthy, would the call to Rockford in early January been for Beach instead of Shaw? Odds are that it probably would have been.

But there’s more to the Wally Pipp question than just Shaw. Beach is still listed at 6’3″ and 210 pounds, or four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than Shaw. Indeed, in 2008 when he was selected by the Blackhawks, Beach was one of the bigger forwards in the organization.

Again, unfortunately for Beach, that is no longer the case. Just from the 2011 Draft, two forwards (Mark McNeill – 6’2″ and 210) and Saad (6’2″ and 211) are close in size to Beach. The Hawks have also added the Hayes brothers (Jimmy – 6’5″ and 210, Kevin – 6’3″ and 205) and physical forwards like Rob Flick (6’2″ and 208) to the organization since the Beach pick.

The fact is, there are prospects in the organization that can annoy opponents and pick a fight just as well as Beach. There are prospects in the organization that are as big (or bigger) than Beach. And there are kids coming that can score as well (or better) than Beach.

And with the organization giving Daniel Carcillo a two-year extension, the opportunities at the NHL level will continue to be limited. The other consideration that cannot be ignored is that it was Tallon, not Stan Bowman, who selected Beach in 2008.

Has Beach become the Wally Pipp of Rockford? Has the organization passed him by while he was out with an injury?

No doors are shut for Beach. Based on what he’s been able to do in limited action this year, he’s still in the mix to fight for a roster spot in September. He’s still only 22, but with the organization continuing to add bigger, talented players, the road to the NHL isn’t going to get easier.

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17 Responses to What Is The Future Of Kyle Beach?

  1. Bryan says:

    Good article…any reason to believe he will be back in the organization next year or do you think the Stan will try and unload him?

  2. Pete says:

    He needs to be given a chance in the NHL with the Hawks. We need to clear off some of the older slow players(i.e Brunette) and give Beach a chance. Mayers isn’t getting any younger and while he’s been great this year maybe Beach can eventually replace him. We shouldn’t give up so easily on a very high draft pick.

  3. Melissa says:

    I would love to see him get a chance to play next season, but I have to say I’m glad it was Shaw who came up. This kid is just amazing. I’m curious to see what Beach could do in the NHL. Shaw wasn’t fantastic, ok but not great, in the minors or earlier,but flourished in the NHL. Maybe Beach will too.

  4. Jim says:

    Maybe Tallon will take him for a draft pick since he drafted him. The Hawks have plenty of Beach-type players as you mentioned. And some are more NHL ready than Beach at younger ages. He hasn’t cracked the NHL lineup yet for a reason.

  5. Glenn says:

    Going back to the summer of 2010, Beach and Morin were the top forward prospects in the organization. Since that time, they both have suffered injuries that have put them back a year in their development. I think the best thing that can happen for both of them is to spend next season in Rockford and work on all aspects of their game(s). With Beach’s natural feistiness and with Morin adding an agitator element to his game this season, I can envision them being the Hawks 4th line wingers in a couple years – and the type of 4th liners who can contribute depth scoring.

  6. Eddy says:

    @Jim
    He hasn’t made the NHL yet cuz he’s hurt. The guy can flat out play when healthy and needs to be given a chance. And which AHL players are more ready than Beach cuz i can (and will) make the argument that the more NHL ready players are already call ups. And Shaw was just damn good luck. We brought him up to play a slow grinding style game with not much more. A solid all round player who could be used on the PK. He ended up being a very willing player who gets to the dirty areas and scores goals.

  7. Kurt says:

    Beach posesses the size and skill to be a servicable NHL’er. I’ve seen him play and he can look out of sync and disinterested, as well as talented and aggressive.

    I think the line on his attitude makes him a potential flop, ala Skille.

    With the stockpile of fowards mentioned and already on the roster… Beach is an asset that could be turned into something.

    The fact is the hawks simply don’t have enough roster spots available. If they could rid themselves of Frolik and Bickle, then Beach may earn a spot. However to rid themselves of the Frolik or possible the Olez contract, something or someone will need to be included.

    Beach may end up being servicable, that’s about it.

  8. Tab Bamford says:

    To follow-up on Glenn’s point, though, there was clearly a disconnect somewhere during the ’10-11 season if Beach & Morin were the top prospects in the organization and 9 months later one of them (Beach) wasn’t called to Chicago during the playoffs.

    To Pete’s comment, Brunette is gone after this year (one-year deal), but comparing Beach to Mayers isn’t appropriate at all. Mayers is winning 55 percent of his faceoffs and only goes to the box when he needs to stick up for a teammate. Beach isn’t going to come into the NHL and be shut-down defensive specialist at center on the fourth line.

  9. Tom Jaremka says:

    The thing about Beach that intrigues management is his ability to score. “Pure” goal scorers are hard to find. Kane, Sharp, Toews, Hossa are all “pure goal scorers”. While an average player on a scoring opportunity looks at the net and sees the goalie, a pure goal scorer looks at the net and sees every place he can shoot and score. Beach seems to be a pure goal scorer. He just needs to adjust his game accordingly……..fewer penalties, better attitude, more ice time.

    I’d love to see the guy get a chance with the Hawks, next year, but I think they will move him for a draft pick. I just hate to see guys who can score move on to the next team.

  10. Zebra Greg says:

    Tab took some words right out of my mouth…some of the comparsions of Beach to others is one thing, but to Mayers, I don’t see at all. Mayers has been valuable this year in his role and surely deserves to be brought back for what he brings to the table…4th line energy, physicality, face-offs, a measure of deterrence; much can also be said about being a locker room leader.
    Beach…I don’t know. At one point I thought of another Ladd on the way but he’s had 3+ years to get to Chicago and doesn’t seem to be on the cusp. If he’s still in the organization in the fall I think that will be his last chance.

  11. John-O says:

    When I’ve seen Beach play, I’ve noticed him coasting a lot and not really playing with very much energy. Think Bickel for a comparison. I pull my hair out watching Bickel, with his size, rarely finish checks or get physically engaged. He has the making of being a very good power forward, ala Lucic, but he seems to be mentally weak.

    Put the motor and attitude of Shaw, in both Beach and Bickel, then you have two very strong power forwards. They both have good offensive skills, but don’t seem to engage physically on a consistent basis to be relied upon. Time will tell to see if the light goes on upstairs for Beach, and if the coaching staff does their job to get Beach to be a valuable asset moving forward.

    My $.02

  12. Kevin says:

    I like Mayers and Carcillo at 4th line next year with Bollig or Hayes. Like Shaw in that 3rd line roll, where he’s been outstanding since his recall. Would like to see Beach given a shot on the 1st line as a true power forward protecting Toews and Kane while still posing a legitimate scoring threat. I think there is room for all of them.

  13. Jim says:

    Beach is just another Bickel, that seems to take a lot of bad penalties. They both have skill, but can’t/haven’t made the next step. Beach hasn’t even cracked the Hawks lineup and he’s 22. He’s been a terrible disappointment for being the #11 pick. I think the Pipp / Gehrig comparison is a stretch. Pipp played 15 years in the Majors. Beach didn’t get replaced on the Hawks roster. He was never on the roster. I think Shaw would have been called up anyway.

  14. Pete says:

    Tab, I think Mayers is great my only point is that he is getting up there in age and I have been thinking Kruger would be the fourth line center and Beach could eventually be a wing on that line. I also read that Mayer is better at wing than center and I don’t know if that’s true. So my comparison was mainly in terms of who would Beach eventually replace on the Hawks roster. I mean how many more years does Mayers have realistically and since Beach isn’t quite ready it seemed to make sense. I realize Kruger could be the second line center, but with Kane and Hossa clicking I have been thinking Kane stays at center on the second line with Hossa even with the return of Toews.

  15. Peter Kieft says:

    Beach will never be a hawk unless he gets his penalty minutes under 60 or so a season. If he scores 15 to 20 goals and spends well over 100 min. in the box, it would cost the hawks probably at least 30 goals. Makes no sence to me. Instead I would like to see Pirri brought up for a longer stint so he could prove himself to be a very tallented center on the hawks roster.

  16. Will says:

    I have only seen Beach at the Prospects camp and to me he did nothing to really stand out. He only seemed interested in finding somebody to drop the gloves with. I believe he was having a hard time adjusting to the pro game from juniors. They said he finally started finding his game at the end of last season. He started off well in Rockford this year and then got hurt. I have read that he is back and playing well so, I don’t know where he fits in here that’s up to management to figure out. For some guys it takes a little longer to develop and figure out what they need to do. Hopefully, he has turned the corner and if he has that will be a good problem for the Hawks to have.

  17. Tim G says:

    I dont see a reason why he wouldn’t be on our team after we unload the bottom end of the roster (Brunette, Carcillo, Frolik, Morrison come to mind). It might take another 2 years, but whos to say thats bad. Hes still got ALOT of hockey in him. He’s 22!

    I mean who would hate this lineup in 3 years?

    Stalberg/Toews/Hossa
    Sharp/Kruger/Kane
    Saad/Shaw/Hayes
    Morin/Pirri/Beach

    And with that roster, you still have McNeil and Danualt in the wings waiting for their chance… so if you someone gets hurt your ok, or if you can move a guy like Stalberg for the right price you have the flexability to bring one of them in.

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