When the Edmonton Oilers signed forward Taylor Beck as a free agent this summer, they were expecting him to be a depth forward and spend a majority of the year with their American Hockey League affiliate in Bakersfield. Fast forward two months and a short one-game recall to Edmonton, Beck has taken the AHL by storm and might be forcing the Oilers’ hand after being named AHL Player of the Month for November.
It’s been a long road for the now 25-year-old who’s become just the first player in Condors history to every be named Player of the Month in the AHL. After bouncing around several NHL organizations (in order the Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche), Beck signed a one-year deal with Edmonton and might be deserving a lengthy look.
Beck exploded through November with seven goals and 15 points in nine AHL games. He’s currently tied for fourth in AHL scoring with 19 points in 14 games and had five multi-point games already this season. If there is any need for a Condors’ recall at forward, you’d think Beck is the next guy up.
Beck Deserving Another Look in Edmonton?
He’s doing everything that was asked of him and providing some timely scoring in Bakersfield right now. Beck is currently on a line with Ryan Hamilton and Anton Lander, one that has a good mix of AHL veteran experience and penchant for scoring in the minor leagues. Even before that he’s had Joey Benik and Jujhar Khaira — two other players off to decent starts to the year in Bakersfield.
If you’re still not sold on Beck, just take a look at how his production is currently dwarfing that of his teammates. Here’s a quick look at the Condors’ top five scorers right now:
The Condors just released Newbury so you can insert Scott Allen (another free agent signing) into the top five with two goals and five points in 14 games. Remember at the beginning of the year when everyone wanted to claim Teemu Pulkkinen from the Detroit Red Wings when he was on waivers? Well Beck is outperforming him right now, and Pulkkinen has looked good with 15 points in 14 games. That’s saying something.
There is value here in the 6’2″, 200-pound power-forward. A former third-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2009, Beck has played in 88 NHL games and has 23 points spread over five seasons. Something has to give though for Beck to get an opportunity in Edmonton.
Buried Behind Question Marks up Front
That something is the logjam of bodies vying for spots in the Oilers’ bottom-six. Matt Hendricks just came back from injury, as did Drake Caggiula. Iiro Pakarinen is still on the shelf and you can’t help but mention the Oilers continue to shuffle the deck.
To be frank, Beck just doesn’t have the cache of a fourth overall pick like Jesse Puljujarvi or a veteran presence like the 35-year-old Hendricks — both of whom were healthy scratches against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 1.
|Connor McDavid||Leon Draisaitl|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Jordan Eberle|
|Patrick Maroon||Mark Letestu||
That was the Oilers lineup against the Jets the other night. Who do you take out to plug Beck in? Pitlick, Maroon, Letestu, Kassian and Caggiula aren’t going anywhere. Maybe that makes Slepyshev someone you can swap out. He’s had points in just four of his 12 games this year. Even then, Slepyshev has improved on both sides of the puck and sending him to Bakersfield just doesn’t send the right message to an organization.
It’s going to come down to an injury — that’s the only way Beck makes his way up. No one is realistically being demoted since Lander was sent down. Caggiula deserves a longer look, Puljujarvi has been a shooting machine that just needs the goals to start coming his way and Hendricks has value on special teams and faceoffs.
At the end of the day, Condors head coach Gerry Fleming can’t stop raving about the play of Beck and he’s not shy to talk about the 25-year-old as a difference maker in Bakersfield. The Condors aren’t the most skilled offensive team, in fact they’re the worst offensive team in the league (just 39 goals for). So imagine those numbers for Beck if he were on a more balanced offensive squad.
What Beck is going to have to do is take the next opportunity he gets in Edmonton to make a splash. He doesn’t have to look far as Pitlick did just that when the year started. No one realistically had Pitlick as a regular member of the Oilers’ roster when training camp started. Yet here we are, and there were nights Pitlick was one of Edmonton’s best forwards on the ice. Beck is going to need to capitalize.
Until then the Oilers have a forward ready to take the next step from the AHL.
"(Hamilton-Lander-Beck) did what they were supposed to do. Your best players have to be your best players and they were tonight," – Gerry. pic.twitter.com/mAHEHXxPNe
— Bakersfield Condors *Currently Suspended* (@Condors) December 3, 2016