Bruins

Despite injury, Johnny Beecher’s development suits him well entering junior season at Michigan

The Bruins' 2019 first-round pick is looking ahead to the upcoming season after suffering a torn labrum.

Bruins 2019 first-round pick Johnny Beecher has dealt with injuries and COVID over the past year. AP Photo/Rick Osentosk

Before his second season at the University of Michigan even began, Johnny Beacher found himself in catch-up mode. A freak shoulder injury sustained in August during a battle drill hampered Beecher’s development during a pandemic-altered 2020-21 campaign.

Boston’s 2019 first-round selection tallied eight points (four goals, four assists) in 16 games during his sophomore season. The future Bruin underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in February. Beecher’s frustrating season didn’t just start and end there. A COVID diagnosis prevented him from competing with Team USA in the annual World Junior Championships.

Beecher finally skated just before returning to Boston for Bruins’ Development Camp at Warrior Ice Arena. He’ll don a red no-contact sweater throughout the week-long training session. He hopes to be back donning the maize and blue for at least one more year by the fall.

“I’m a little over five months from labrum surgery,” Beecher said. “So the next couple of weeks, hopefully, I’ll go back to Ann Arbor and see my doc and hopefully get the clear to be full contact and full go to start the season once we get there.”

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Assuming he’s cleared, Beecher will return to a loaded Michigan bunch for his junior season. The Wolverines are fresh off a historic 2021 NHL Draft. Three members of their current roster — top overall pick Owen Power, Hingham native Matty Beniers, and Kent Johnson — and incoming freshman Luke Hughes all landed in the top five.

“It’s an exciting year coming up for sure,” Beecher said of the upcoming season in Michigan. “We have so much skill on the front end and we have a lot of depth with our D.”

With two years of growing pains under his belt, Beecher finds himself as an elder statesman in Ann Arbor. The 6-foot-3 forward hopes to fine-tune his two-way skillset in a leadership role for a Michigan squad with lofty expectations.

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“I’m coming back as a junior…time is flying by,” Beecher added. “I want to be a huge leader for this team, especially for the younger guys that are just getting on campus and just getting their footing in there.”

Even with a plethora of talent, Beecher will likely see an increased workload within the top six and special teams units during his third season on coach Mel Pearson’s squad.

Beecher’s projected role in the professional game remains unclear. Boston’s center depth chart took a significant hit after David Krejci opted to continue his stellar professional hockey career in his native Czech Republic. The Bruins may implement a committee of Jack Studnicka, Charlie Coyle, and newcomers Erik Haula and Nick Foligno.

Perhaps Beecher will one day find himself in the top-six discussion. His stout skating traits suit him well in the professional game. In the interim, Jamie Langenbrunner and the Bruins’ player personnel department want their big, talented forward to showcase consistency while developing keen habits with or without the puck needed to succeed at the NHL level.

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“His skating is obviously high-end. It almost looks like he’s not skating at times, but when you’re standing there, he’s going really, really fast because it’s so effortless,” Langenbrunner said of Beecher’s speed and quickness.

“I think for him whether he’s going to end up as a second line guy, or a third line guy, or a fourth line guy, will depend on how quickly he gets those details in and how his consistency is there night in and night out. That’s going to make a coach happy and give him an opportunity. His skating and his size are always going to be there. He’s learning how to do those pro habits, and we’re going to continue to work with him.”

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Luckily for Langenbrunner and company, Beecher faced his share of adversity last season. The mental discipline showcased Beecher’s growth over his first two years.

The unlucky events over the last 12 months could’ve altered any player’s development. With plenty of perspective during that time, a confident and healthy Beecher hopes to take another step forward during a pivotal junior campaign in Michigan.

“It’s been a big focus of mine the past couple of years working with guys and just trying to figure out that different aspect of the sport,” Beecher said. “It really is important. It’s just as important as your offensive and defensive skills. So, to me, that’s been my biggest growth, and I just feel I’m gaining more and more confidence every year. Obviously, with the surgery, it limited me this past season on what I can do and what I was comfortable with on the ice. This upcoming season — I’m sure when we get back in the swing of things and I get comfortable out there — it will be a lot of fun.”

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