Jake Bean took a seat in the corner of the locker room Friday at PNC Arena, sweat still dripping off his forehead and nose.
Bean had just gone through his first practice of preseason training camp with the Carolina Hurricanes. The defenseman, a first-round draft pick by Carolina this year, was in the second group and on the ice with such D-men as Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce and Ryan Murphy.
“I really didn’t know what to expect coming into it,” Bean said. “It was really cool. I’m just excited to keep going.”
Bean, who turned 18 in June, was the 13th overall pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, taken by the Canes eight spots ahead of forward Julien Gauthier. The two were members of the Canes’ team that captured the Traverse City (Mich.) prospects tournament earlier this week, Gauthier scoring twice and Bean adding a power-play goal as Carolina beat the host Detroit Red Wings in the title game.
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“It was a good, fun experience,” Bean said. “There’s a lot of good, talented players on the other teams that you have to play against, and they’re all older and faster. It’s just another level and it’s always fun to win.”
It’s always an interesting dynamic and contrast at NHL training camps. When the recent draftees and other rookies come in for the prospects development camp in the summer, the first-round picks — often less than a month removed from hearing their name called the first night of the NHL Draft — are the headliners and usually act the part. You can see it in their body language and demeanor as much as on the ice.
Bean, a terrific skater with a high hockey IQ, starred for the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL last season. Gauthier, big and strong at 6-4 and 225 pounds, scored 41 goals for Val d’Or in the QMJHL. Both were impressive at prospects camp and signed their entry-level contracts at the Summerfest.
Now, they’re at the big camp looking at a Jordan Staal or Justin Faulk. They’re not in Traverse City anymore.
Bean is listed at 6-1 and 173 pounds. His slight frame didn’t hurt him with the Hitmen — he had 24 goals and 64 points in 68 games last season — but he must be bigger to make the step up to professional hockey and handle that kind of physical grind.
“He looks like a smooth skater who handles the puck well,” said Canes assistant coach Steve Smith, who works with the defensemen. “He handles the puck with his eyes up and he looks to make plays. He’s obviously a heady player. He doesn’t look particularly strong at this time but often players like that use their smarts and their skill to get away from the heavy-lifting situation.”
Bean, born and raised in Calgary, is smart enough to know he probably won’t be on the Canes’ roster this year. He can see the competition in camp.
“I think being the age I am, I shouldn’t have too many expectations coming into camp,” Bean said. “Obviously the goal is to make the team and we’ll see how that goes.
“Sure, the odds are against me. I think any guy coming to camp should have the goal of making the team but realistically that probably won’t be the case, but you never know what can happen. I’m just going to try and learn as much as I can. There’s a lot of experience, whether through the players or coaches, and it should be huge learning experience for me.”