Taylor Beck signing on with the Edmonton Oilers got some
brief attention when it happened and has mostly been ignored since. Yet he’s
not a player who should be entirely counted out of the team’s plans for
2016-17. Not only should he be good enough to challenge for a spot in training
camp, but even if he’s sent down that may not be the last of him.
The book on Beck has always been that he had power forward
potential, combining good hands with a 6’2”, 205-pound frame. The problems
along the way have been things like skating and consistent physical play. That’s
how he found himself in the minors last year – the scoring wasn’t quite good
enough to climb the depth chart and the physical play wasn’t good enough to
impress in a depth role.
Yet there’s something there.
In 2014-15, Beck played his only full NHL season, and did it
under trying circumstances. Nashville has been using Paul Gaustad in what we’d
call the Boyd Gordon role the last few years, getting a ton of defensive zone
starts with very little offensive responsibility. Beck was welded to Gaustad at
the hip, not just playing fourth-line minutes but taking on *tough* fourth-line
He delivered eight goals and 16 points in 62 games in that
situation. That’s better production than Iiro Pakarinen managed last year in a
less specialized role, better production than Matt Hendricks managed, too.
Project it over 70-odd games and that’s Lauri Korpikoski level scoring, but
without Korpikoski’s miserable two-way numbers.
For those who prefer 5-on-5 points/hour, Beck scored
1.28 in his lone year in Nashville. That would have ranked ninth on the
Oilers last season, ahead of Pakarinen, Zack Kassian, Korpikoski and all of the
team’s part-timers. It’s a total virtually on par with what Nail Yakupov (1.35)
and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1.36) managed.
Beck is 25, and there’s little indication that the scoring
has dropped off. Here are his AHL numbers by age:
- 2011-12: 74 games, 16 goals, 40 points (0.54 points/game)
- 2012-13: 50 games, 11 goals, 41 points (0.82 points/game)
- 2013-14: 65 games, 17 goals, 49 points (0.75 points/game)
- 2014-15: in the NHL
- 2015-16: 50 games, 17 goals, 34 points (0.68 points/game)
Beck’s overall points-per-game total is a touch below what
he’d done in the two seasons prior to his NHL campaign. His goal numbers are actually
better than they’ve been in any prior season.
Given his age and his relatively steady production, it seems
likely to me that Beck could step right back into the majors and contribute
something in the 15-20 point range on a fourth line given a ton of defensive
zone starts. That’s a player who can compete with a Pakarinen, replace an aging
Hendricks or fill-in as required by injury or trade.
Beck may start the year in the minors, but his contract suggests that he
won’t be there all year. His NHL salary is a reasonable $650,000, while in the
AHL he’ll earn $250,000. It’s interesting to note that he’s guaranteed $350,000
in total salary, meaning that if he doesn’t get an NHL call-up the Oilers will
be on the hook for an extra $100,000. That’s the kind of deal a team makes only
when it expects that the guy is going to be spending some time in the majors.
At worst, Beck will provide some internal competition and
minor-league scoring. But he might be an NHL’er, too, a cheap young
fourth-liner with size and some scoring skill.
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