What a roller coaster ride Erie Otters’ defenseman Luke Beamish has been on these last 19 months.
Turn back the calendar to the trade deadline in 2018. The Otters knew they weren’t going anywhere the season after their OHL championship. All eyes were on star forward Taylor Raddysh. It was just a matter of time before the end of an era in Erie and his eventual trade.
On Jan. 6, the Otters sent Raddysh and defenseman Jordan Sambrook to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in a blockbuster trade. While all of the attention was put on that trade, there was another trade that happened the same day that didn’t seem significant at the time, but as we’ll see soon, it will have big ramifications for the Otters in 2019-20.
The Otters acquired Beamish from the Owen Sound Attack in a one-for-one trade for forward Cade Robinson. Beamish was someone the Otters were very high on from his draft year. Here’s what GM Dave Brown said about him at the time the trade was completed.
“Luke was a player the scouting staff and I were quite high on in his draft year. He’s a very mobile defender with great offensive instincts and possesses an excellent puck moving ability. We’re excited to watch Luke grow with our group in Erie.”
Beamish played in 16 games following the trade to Erie. He recorded four assists and a -9 rating in that time. The Otters were looking forward to the future with him.
A Shortened Season
Beamish started out the 2018-19 season with two goals and 11 points in 23 games. Then he was not heard from again the rest of the season. He played what turned out to be his last game of the season on Nov. 24, 2018 against Peterborough.
Beamish was diagnosed with a concussion.
The longer the days went with him out of the lineup, the more the concern grew about his overall health. That’s the troubling part about concussions. You can feel ok one day. But then you can go very long stretches with unbearable pain. There was some real question if we’d ever see Beamish in an Otters’ uniform again. There was even some that questioned if he’d ever play hockey again.
We got to catch up with Beamish to get an inside look at his story. He told us that he never thought his career was in jeopardy. But he did say he had a couple very bad months with his head. “It just took time to get over that hump”, Beamish said. “I just needed to keep the right mindset. I knew it would get better eventually.”
So what did Beamish and the Otters do during this time to get him on the road to recovery?
“The team was great”, Beamish recalled. “They sent me to multiple doctors. My diet was changed so I was eating as healthy as possible. I went to Toronto and spent time with Matt Nichol. I worked out a lot and especially focused on my cardio. In the past I would focus on strength, but now I was focused on becoming as fit as possible.”
The results have been very positive for Beamish. With such attention to detail and making important changes in his life, he is back to 100% health with no restrictions and is ready for a full workload with the Otters in 2019-20.
Perhaps the happiest person to see this is his head coach. Chris Hartsburg is not only excited to have Beamish back in the fold, he admitted how big a loss the defenseman really was for the team.
“It would be fair for me to say that the loss of Luke Beamish hurt us more than any loss last year”, Hartsburg said. “He was probably our best defenseman at exiting the zone and making plays on the breakout. We missed him when he was gone. To see him come back, especially in that game on Saturday (preseason against Hamilton), he did a lot of things well that we missed. He’s an important piece of our group because of his mobility and ability to make plays. For him, he had a great summer. This is the best shape he’s ever been in. For me, it’s certainly exciting to see him around here.”
The Work is Just Beginning
Beamish and the Otters know that the work is just beginning. He is now one of the experienced veterans on the team at age 19. With his experience and leadership, he will help Jamie Drysdale and some of the other younger Otters in the room.
Beamish will also help the team improve on both exiting the zone and on the penalty kill. The Otters desperately missed his mobility last season. You can expect to see more clean exits with him in the lineup. You can also expect to see an improved penalty kill. It couldn’t get much worse from last season.
“The PK will be better”, Beamish told me. “They will be hungrier and they come in more experienced this season.”
Beamish will also allow the Otters to have a mobile defenseman on each defensive pair if they so choose. With Drysdale and Jacob Golden in the fold, the one thing you can expect to see from the team this season is a team playing at a much higher tempo and quicker puck movement. Beamish really is a difference maker in what the Otters are trying to accomplish.
Setting a Good Example
Beamish knew what he was dealing with. He put in the time, effort and energy necessary to get over the hump and he is now primed to help the Otters return to the playoffs. The player and the team handled this tough situation about as well as anyone could ask for. When dealing with a concussion, never rush. They took their time, made some changes and now he is 100% healthy.
Let Beamish’s story be an example of how to properly handle someone struggling with a concussion. When you do things the right way, you get rewarded for it, no matter how long it takes. The way this was handled could be a huge factor now in how this season goes for the Otters.
For now though, seeing Beamish back on the ice with his team is a wonderful thing to see. Let’s hope it stays that way now.