Carolina Hurricanes first-round pick Jake Bean knows few things better than hockey, but the city of Calgary, Alberta, might be one of them.
Raleigh, however, is not. Before arriving for the Hurricanes’ prospect development camp, which runs Wednesday to Saturday this week, the 18-year-old defenseman had never been in North Carolina.
“It’s a little bit from home,” Bean said Friday.
Bean was born in 1998 and grew up playing youth hockey in Calgary before attending the city’s Edge School, an athletics-focused prep school. He spent the last two years playing for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. And his father, John, serves as chief operating officer of the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
But the expectations Bean created with his play in Calgary have made the 2,000-mile journey to Raleigh with him – the 13th overall selection in last month’s NHL draft will be one of the most-watched players at the camp, which showcases the Hurricanes’ top prospects in a week of on- and off-ice workouts.
Less than a month after his selection by the team, Bean is confident this will be a successful week, even in the most unfamiliar of locations.
Unlike most all of his Canadian peers picked in the early rounds of the draft, Bean was experiencing his name being called for the first time, as he was never initially drafted into the WHL.
Instead, Hitmen general manager Mike Moore noticed him at the local Edge School and added him to the team’s “protected list,” where junior teams can claim rights to undrafted players. Bean eventually worked his way onto the Hitmen’s 2014-15 roster and gained increased playing time and responsibilities when injuries hobbled the rest of the team.
During the 2015-16 season, Bean and Travis Sanheim, a 2014 first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, served as the Hitmen’s top defensive pairing and helped the team to a 42-26-4 record. Bean tallied 24 goals and 40 assists (64 points) to rank sixth among WHL defensemen in scoring, with half of his goals coming on the power play.
“He’s got a creative mindset that really challenges you as a coaching staff,” said Hitmen coach Mark French. “When you want your ‘D’ to play an easy game and make that easy pass, Jake’s always looking for a better opportunity or a better option, and you love him for it, because he’s got such a great imagination.”
French also raved about Bean’s less heralded defensive acumen, naming his active stick and skating agility as keys to his positioning and turnover creation in his own zone.
Bean, who grew up regularly attending NHL games, said he has tried to model his game in recent years on Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie, who scored 39 assists and 45 points last season.
“He has a lot of energy out there, and he’s always making a really solid first tape-to-tape pass and is a guy that’s really effective in all three zones of the ice,” Bean said. “That’s a guy that I’ve really been fortunate to watch.”
Based on his WHL numbers, analytics engine Prospect-Stats.com offers a variety of other potential NHL player comparisons for Bean, including Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov and Buffalo’s Zach Bogosian. It puts his chance to make the NHL at 100 percent.
The 6-foot-1, 173-pound blueliner says his ability to effectively exit the defensive zone, whether by clearing the puck off the glass or by passing to a teammate, “may be a bit better than other guys,” giving him a leg up in his path toward the pros.
Whirlwind draft day
Owing to his father’s involvement in the organization, Flames executives Brian Burke and Brad Treliving, the team’s general manager, advised Bean on the draft process, stressing the importance of enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Bean met with a number of teams leading up to the June 24 draft in Buffalo, but his meeting with Carolina didn’t stick out. Projected to go somewhere between 10th and 20th in the first round, Bean wasn’t sure Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis was going to pick him.
“Waiting at the draft, it’s kind of a strange feeling,” he said. “In some ways, the whole thing is a little strange: You work the whole year for one moment, and then everyone’s sitting in one room just waiting.”
To see that look in my dad and my mom’s eyes, that was something I don’t think you can really replicate.
Top Canes draft pick Jake Bean
He was able to see forward Tyson Jost, a fellow Alberta native and close friend, go 10th overall to the Colorado Avalanche before his name was read by the Hurricanes, beginning a whirlwind evening of photo shoots, news conferences and introductions.
However, the first thing he did – hugging his family before walking to the stage – proved the most memorable.
“To see that look in my dad and my mom’s eyes, that was something I don’t think you can really replicate,” he said.
His father, John, who said he might have been more nervous than his son, described his emotions in the moment as twofold.
“Relief is probably the first feeling that you have,” John Bean said. “It’s unbelievable how stressful the process can become – there’s a lot of buildup and a lot of anticipation – and so relief followed real quickly by joy and a sense of pride and happiness for Jake.”
Preparation for camp
The Hurricanes soon sent Bean a schedule of events for development camp, but that constituted the majority of the team’s communication with its top pick between draft weekend and his arrival in Raleigh this week.
So Bean reached out to Haydn Fleury – the Hurricanes’ seventh overall selection in 2014 and longtime friend – to “pick his brain” about his new franchise and prepare for camp, which Fleury has attended twice before.
“Obviously, he knows a lot about the organization and ... he had nothing but good things to say (about it),” Bean said of Fleury, whom he skated with several times over the past few weeks. “To have a familiar face at camp ... will be nice.”
Bean said he hopes his exposure over the years to the inner workings of the Flames will make his integration into the Hurricanes smoother. He’s been in Calgary’s locker room many times.
“I got to see how the guys conduct themselves around the rink and see how hard they practice every day,” he said. “If I can implement that into my day-to-day routine, it’s going to help me in my future.”
John Bean is looking forward to his new link to Carolina – for the golf courses. He has visited the state before on a golf tour and was excited to learn of Pinehurst’s proximity to Raleigh.
But for Jake, who joins Fleury as well as Roland McKeown and Josh Wesley as the most highly touted defensemen on the camp roster, there will be no time to tee up. The camp features all-day hockey immersion for each of its 27 invitees, culminating in Saturday’s scrimmage in front of a Summerfest crowd at PNC Arena.
Bean, for one, isn’t fazed by the competition.
“Everyone for sure brings a different aspect to the game, so I think I’m just going to bring mine and obviously the Hurricanes are going to like my game – they wouldn’t have drafted me if they didn’t,” he said. “I don’t know what aspects will stand out – and I’m hoping some do – but I don’t think I have to worry about that too much.”