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  • Adam Beckman's Growth In Iowa Is Setting Himself Up For NHL Success

    Aaron Heckmann

    Editor's Note: This is the final part of the series checking in with four Minnesota Wild prospects who spoke to 10KRinks in exclusive one-on-one interviews during the Iowa Wild's series against the Texas Stars on Dec. 16-17. Parts 1-3 are Marco Rossi, Daemon Hunt, and Jesper Wallstedt.


    DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Wild head coach Tim Army liked what he saw from Adam Beckman in his four-game call-up with the Minnesota Wild in November. Army said there were many positive things about his performance, but his biggest takeaway was that Beckman played like he "belonged."


    "There weren’t those holes to his game where you can get exposed at the NHL… his game was much more solidified," Army said about the difference between last year's call-up and the first one this season. "So the next time you go up, you need to play with the same awareness, the same details, but we gotta get you to produce a little bit. And that will help you have traction and get legs in the NHL because that’s what the expectation is for him."


    Responsible defensively? Check, Army said. Provided the Wild with pressure on the forecheck? Check. Drove to the net to create opportunities? Check, again. Strong in the neutral zone and added speed to the Wild's game? Once again, check.


    “When he came back [after the November call-up], what we talked about was now you got a good foundation, but you’re expected to be a point producer," Army told 10KRinks on Dec. 16 after Iowa played the Texas Stars. "So now let’s keep maintaining that, but let’s push the pace, and let’s start really feeling the puck and really commanding the game offensively, which he has, and he’s hit some crossbars; he’s hit some posts. He’s had some great chances he hasn’t scored on."


    While Beckman didn't register a point in his latest two-game NHL call-up last week, he got close when he hit the post against the Dallas Stars on an odd-man rush. Ultimately, that cup of coffee turned out to be another one where Beckman fit in. However, even though he fits in, marinating in the AHL right now is the best course for his development. That's especially true because he's playing top minutes in Iowa, which includes a significant role in all situations.


    Despite looking like an NHLer, he didn't record a point in his six games with the Wild. The Wild controlled 51 percent of the shot attempts share at even-strength with Beckman on the ice, but Minnesota held a 45 percent expected goals rate and were outscored 2-0. It's not the best six-game stretch ever, but it was in the NHL. And for Beckman, getting that experience under his belt was "awesome."


    "Just getting in those games and seeing what you have to do to be successful is important," Beckman said about the experience last season and his first NHL call-up this season. "I think that taking that mentality down here and playing is even more important. You got to continue to work on the little things that will get you to that level and kind of just bring it every day, and I think that’s been a focus of mine since I’ve been down here.”


    Army said he saw a better player on the ice after his second return from an NHL stint. Last year, Army thought his call-up in 2021-22 was "a lot for him," and his game wasn't as effective — even though he earned his first NHL point. Ask Army what he thinks the major difference is in how Beckman's game has evolved over the past year, and he'd say "more stability." Army said Beckman is playing a more effective two-way game even if he's still in the learning process, and part of that success comes from his compete level.


    “That’s been a focus of mine all year, to just try and be as complete of a player as I can and play both ends," Beckman said about his complete game. “That’s just kind of the development process. I think that, obviously, having a full year in the American League under my belt and just kind of learning a lot about my game and what I have to do to be successful. And I think that bringing that into the games is helping me. I think it’s giving me more chances to create offense, but it’s also helping me be a player that can play on both sides of the puck.”


    Beckman is also more "diligent" when he doesn't have the puck, Army said, who added that the 21-year-old, similar to Marco Rossi, needs to get stronger, though. In turn, that will help him win more puck battles.


    “He’s learning the importance of winning these small isolated battles because that is the building block to creating your offensive game," Army said. "And he’s learning that, and he’s getting better, much better than he was a year ago, at coming up with pucks and separating.”


    While Beckman entered this season with a year of AHL experience, Army said Beckman occasionally suffers from overthinking. Army pulled him aside on December 3 after Iowa's game against the Chicago Wolves because Beckman sometimes asks Army questions like "was I in the right spot there?” after he returns to the bench from a shift. That's when Army knows Beckman is thinking too much. Army told Beckman that he would let him know if he wasn't in the best position, and that's not something that needs to be on his mind.


    That's what they've tried to focus on with the former 107-point scorer in 2019-20 with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League (WHL). Army said the peak of his game is found when he's playing simply and not thinking too much.


    “We’ve encouraged him to use his speed and his skill and not overthink it, just put your foot on the gas and go play," Army said.


    Beckman has eight goals and 15 points in 26 games in Iowa this season. However, Army said that he could easily have more because of the number of opportunities that could have ended in goals but haven't, whether that be a post, crossbar, or came up empty on a Grade-A scoring chance. Regardless, he's still on pace to hit the 20-goal mark, which would almost double his 11-goal campaign last year.



    “There’s good pace to his game," Army said. "There's good structure to his game, but he is pushing the envelope offensively, and that’s going to pay dividends for him as he continues to progress. Again, same thing. He’s a much better player today than he was a year ago.”


    Shot selection is a specific area that Army has seen Beckman improve in. It doesn't take long to watch Beckman and see his shoot-first mentality — and wicked-fast release. He's leading Iowa with 94 shots for a reason, a 3.62 shot-per-game rate, up from 2.98 last year when he was in the top-10 in the AHL in shots on goal.


    But that desire to shoot the puck isn't always a good thing because he would take many low-percentage shots in the past. Now Army said Beckman's added the ability to decide when it's smarter to shoot the puck versus when to maintain possession for a better opportunity.



    "He’s always been a shot-first mentality, but a year ago, he would just shoot everything from everywhere," Army said. "I think now he’s holding on to pucks better... [and] a little bit longer, and he’s not just giving the puck away, just shooting for the sake of shooting. When he does shoot, he’s getting into the good area to shoot, and it’s got an opportunity to have something happen when it gets to the net.”


    Beckman maintaining possession longer not only allows him to see if there are better options with more time and space, Army said, but it also puts him in a better place to shoot. That was true against Texas on Dec. 16 and 17, where Beckman put his and Army's words into action. Beckman found, as Army puts it, "balance" when it came to shooting. He drove to the net, had multiple shot assists after patiently maintaining the puck, and made good decisions about when and where to shoot the puck. For instance, he took a low-percentage shot from near the point, but it created a scoring chance because of traffic in front.


    Beckman worked on this during the summer after his 34-point rookie year, so it makes sense why Beckman's shot selection improved considerably this season. Once he puts everything together, he will be a dangerous player — especially with his shot, as seen in the clip below. According to The Athletic's Scott Wheeler, Beckman is the Wild's eighth-best prospect and has decent odds to be a middle-six forward at the NHL level.



    “That was just a focus of mine this summer is just to really focus on where you’re putting the puck when you’re shooting it," Beckman said about his shoot-first mentality. "I had a lot of shots last year but not a ton of goals, so just trying to focus on scoring when I get my chances. I think that I’m just trying to continue to work through things, obviously, the puck’s not always going to go in for you, but you got to continue to try and do the right things.”


    All Data Via Elite-Prospects, AHL.com, and Natural Stat Trick.

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