By Warren Kozireski —
From getting drafted late in the first round (30th overall) in the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver by the Boston Bruins to Development Camp to the World Junior Summer Showcase in August to his first collegiate season with the University of Michigan to Team USA in the World Junior tournament in the Czech Republic, it has been more than a whirlwind eight months for Elmira native Johnny Beecher.
“You have to be ready to be a professional athlete,” Beecher said after a mid-January game at Penn State where 30 family members made the drive down to see him. “It’s a grind. You’re a student right now, but at the same time you’re trying to prepare and get ready for the next level.
“You’re working as hard as you can all summer and I think it became pretty evident pretty fast. You’re going to Dev. Camp and then busy the rest of the summer you need to take of your body and do everything you can.
Since returning to the lineup after the World Juniors, Beecher has two goals and an assist to help Wolverines attempt to salvage what has been a disappointing season with a four-game unbeaten streak. He is tied for third on the team in scoring with 12 points and stood second with seven goals.
That may not sound like much, but he was third in the entire Big Ten among freshmen in conference scoring and tied for 11th nationally.
“Going overseas is such an honor and I’d much rather do that than go home,” Beecher said about his non-break during the holidays. “You can go home and get a week off and see your family, but at the same time any chance I get to represent my country I’m going to do it.
“We had a great time—not the result we wanted—but to be back with some of my best friends and meet a bunch of new guys was unbelievable. It’s a huge platform and hopefully I get the chance again next year.”
The U.S. National Team Development Program grad is playing the left wing for the Wolverines and seeing regular time on the power play. He has surprised ore than a few opponents with his speed and how quickly he closes the gap while playing physically.
The 6’3”, 209 lb. Beecher won’t turn 19 until the weekend prior to the Frozen Four in Detroit in April. He played his high school hockey at Elmira High School as a freshman, but headed to prep school in Salisbury, Connecticut before spending the last two with the U.S. Team.
He netted his first collegiate goal in hist fifth game of the season against Western Michigan Oct. 25, but went scoreless for five more afterward. Since he had six goals and an assist in ten games as he adjusts to the next level.
Beecher was one of three New Yorkers selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver this past summer along with Trevor Zegras (Bedford), taken ninth overall by Anaheim and Thomas Harley (Syracuse), taken 18th overall by Dallas. That tied the record for most from New York in the first round in history.
“It shows the hockey is really growing in the state and we have a really good Development Program. There were a couple of other guys on the team from New York that probably could have been selected, so it’s an exciting time right now and it’s just getting bigger so it’s fun.”
But he is not looking past college hockey, at least for now.
“I’m really enjoying school; it’s been a great time so far and I love the guys (teammates), so come to work every day and have that pro mentality that this is your job and this is what you want to do.”