On the day in 2016 when the Carolina Hurricanes drafted Jake Bean just a couple of weeks past his 18th birthday, the lanky skater was asked to describe his style of play.
“I’m a two-way defenseman who can play big minutes against the other team’s top guys,” Bean said. “I’m a guy who sees the ice really well.”
And his biggest weakness?
“My strength,” he said. “In some aspects that’s a good thing because inevitably it will come.”
At the time, Bean was a hockey stick on skates at 6-foot-1, 172 pounds. Big minutes against the best players meant games in the Western Hockey League with the Calgary Hitmen. He had a long way to go to get to the National Hockey League.
Now he’s there.
Bean is still 6-1, but now tips the scales at 186 pounds — still lean but stronger. He has found a spot in the Hurricanes lineup, and may not be losing it anytime soon — not if he keeps playing the way he has the past five games for the Canes (12-4-1).
In the team’s 4-2 loss Monday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bean had a game-high seven shots. He moved the puck well, earned his fifth assist of the season and made some decisive plays in the defensive zone with defensive partner Haydn Fleury. Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour is using him on the second power-play unit.
“He’s got poise for sure,” Brind’Amour said on a recent media call. “To get a real assessment of a player you’ve really got to get him in the mix in a regular fashion. I think it’s unfair to put him in and then take him out. You’ve really got to give him a little run here to get a true assessment of what you’re getting.”
Bean said Monday his comfort level is rising with each game, that he feels more sure of himself and what he can do.
“I’ve never been one to just be able to step in and just be super confident right off the bat,” Bean said. “I usually grow up pretty naturally, so hopefully I can continue to do that and help us win games.”
‘Long time coming’
Bean grew up in Calgary and around the NHL — his father, John, is president and CEO of the Calgary Flames. in the 2016 NHL Draft, Bean was considered one of the best offensive defensemen available and was taken 13th overall, one pick ahead of Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins.
Brind’Amour often speaks of players “paying their dues” and Bean did that in the American Hockey League. Given the Canes’ depth on the back end, Bean played 129 regular-season games for the Charlotte Checkers. He was a member of the 2019 Calder Cup champion team and earned the Eddie Shore Award in 2020 as the AHL’s best defenseman.
“It feels like a long time coming for me,” Bean said during training camp. “It’s not exactly how I thought it would go two or three years ago, but I took advantage of being in the American Hockey League and getting a lot of ice time in. I think I’m NHL-ready.”
Bean, 22, began the season on the Canes’ taxi squad, ambivalent about it, saying it would be more beneficial to play games with the Chicago Wolves, the Canes’ new AHL affiliate, than just practice with the big team. He did not play the first three games, was in for three, then was out for the next six games before going back into the lineup Feb. 15 against Columbus.
Bean had two assists against the Blue Jackets, his first NHL points, and a plus-2 rating. He now has assists in the past three games and a plus-5 plus/minus rating for the past five games — he was plus-1 in 15 minutes of ice time Monday.
“The first thing that stands out to me is just his poise with the puck,” defenseman Brett Pesce said Tuesday. “He’s not afraid to make a play. He’s got tons of talent.”
Bean is getting that “little run” of games Brind’Amour talked about and the Canes have been getting some solid play from the former first-rounder.
“We know if we’re healthy we’re going to have to shuffle the lineup a little to keep everyone engaged,” Brind’Amour said. “But he’s got poise and we like that about him.”
Hurricanes at Tampa Bay Lightning
When: Wednesday, 5 p.m.
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla.