Head to Head: Milan Kraft Vs. Kris Beech

By Marc Lapointe

Milan Kraft VS Kris Beech

We have an unfair battle hhere. Beech has posted many more points then Kraft
this season and Kraft just got send to the minors. Beech won the first
“battle” between the two top prospects of the Penguins, but the war is not
done yet.

Overall Offensive Game:

If you look at Milan Kraft’s stats this season you’re probable gonna
conclude that he was struggling badly. But stats aren’t everything in this
wonderful sport, he was actually one of the most dangerous forward for the
Pens for some games. Kraft is able to get alot of scoring chances but he has the
unfortunate tendency to not capitalize on them. If Kraft can finally find the back of the net regularly, he will become the forward the Pens saw in him
at the 1998 draft. As for Kris Beech, he came in Pittsburgh with great
expectations after being traded for arguably the most skilled player in the
world, Jaromir Jagr. In my mind Beech hasn’t been a disappointment so far. He has showed some really
good skills and hockey sense for a youngster. But nothing has been easy for
the Penguins this year and appearing on the score sheet is sometimes “mission
impossible”. If Beech would have played with
offensive system that was utilized by the Penguins the past couple years, he would have
twice as many points. Beech creates a lot of scoring chances with his
incredible offensive assets but he took awhile to score his first NHL
goal.

Both potential future stars have seen Ice-time during the struggling Penguins
Powerplay this year. Result? They simply did like the rest of the team:
struggle very much! They sometimes have shown some good moves and some good
hockey-sense but nothing really outstanding stands out.
So far Beech has scored four goals and 12 assists, and Kraft has five
goals and only two assists. Milan also was able to score two goals and one assist in
two games with the baby Pens.

Grade: Beech : C, Kraft : D+

Overall Defensive Game:

The main reason why the Canadian is still in Pitsburgh and the Czech at
Wilkes-Barre is their overall defensive game (and physical presence). Beech
has been consistent in his own end in helping his defense, He makes simple
decisions and was good on break-outs. Beech has shown maturity for his
age and shows the potential of being a first line, 2-way center. However,
He still has to work on his decision-making overall.

Kraft is about the opposite. He was way too much inconsistency in the
neutral and defensive zone. Kraft can surprise you with a good poke-check or
simply watch you skate by. Hustle is the key for the 6-foot-2 center.

Grade: Beech : B-,
Kraft : C-

Skating:

Back with the Calgary Hitmans, Pavel Brendl and Kris Beech were teammates.
Brendl was describe as the pure sniper and Beech as the complete player, fast
as the wind. At the Pro level, both ex-WHL players still benefit from their
#1 asset. Beech has the wheels and the quickness but his agility and
footspeed are in need of some improvement.

Kraft, once again is quite the opposite. Kraft is not the fastest skater in
the NHL but he can turn around, make pivots and change direction very well.

Grade: Beech : B+,
Kraft : B

Physical Play:

As long as Kraft doesn’t use his 193-pound frame to his advantage, he will
never become a dominant player in the big league. Kraft doesn’t hit, doesn’t
neutralize opponents, and he doesn’t play physical.

Beech wasn’t expecting to be a big physical presence either. After all,
with his effective defensive and physical game, many parts of his game were
unknown. In fact, Efficient is how you can describe Beech’s physical game.
He isn’t the guy who can smash you like a Darius Kasparaitis or Scott
Stevens but he can hit hard and make his opponent lose the puck. Beech is
also awesome around the board, he has protected the puck excellently and wins
most of his battles. His good strength will be an asset for playing and
staying in this league.

Grade: Beech : B,
Kraft : D-

Passing Skills:

Like almost every potential superstar, Kraft and Beech both possess an
incredible vision of the ice, and this asset makes them excellent play makers.
Kraft and Beech pass the puck more than often, right on the tape and at the
right moment. By watching their passing game you see why they are considered top prospects in the NHL. Little note: Kraft should shoot more.

Grade: Beech : B+,
Kraft : B+

Puck Control:

Kraft controls the puck really well for a rookie. He can deke out some
defensemen and has really impressed a lot of people. Beech isn’t too bad
either but he loses the puck too often.

Grade: Beech : B-,
Kraft : B+

Others: Both have the same percentage for face-offs, hovering around 45%. If we take
in consideration that 50% on face-off is good and that both are in their
first full year against the big and experienced opposing centers, that’s not
bad at all.

Final:

Right now Beech is obviously the best Penguins prospect on offense BUT, the
Europeans usually need more time to develop and Kraft COULD become a better
player in the future. This is definitely arguably, but it’s my opinion.

Stats : (taken Friday, January 4)

Kris Beech

GP      G     A     PTS     +/-      PIM      PPG      SHG      GWG     GTG      Shots
38      4    12     16      -7       31        1        0        0       0          70

Playing time:
Average per game : 14:16
Total in Penalty Kill: 00:05:34
Total in Power Play : 01:22:16 (2.1 minutes per game)
Face-Off:
Face-off taken: 326
Face-off % : 45%

Hits: 35br>
Giveaways: 20
Takeaways: 19

Milan Kraft

GP      G     A     PTS     +/-      PIM      PPG      SHG      GWG     GTG      Shots
36      5     2      7       -6       10        0        0        1       1         58

Playing time:
Average per game : 13:26
Total in Penalty Kill: 00:08:21
Total in Power Play : 01:03:54 (1.7 minutes per game)
Face-Off:
Face-off taken: 460
Face-off % : 45%
Hits: 9
Giveaways: 6
Takeaways: 16