Taylor Beck takes on greater leadership role with Guelph Storm

By Jason Menard

Last year the OHL was all about the Tyler/Taylor debate — but there was a third Taylor who effectively inserted himself into the conversation is likely to continue his progress thanks to being a student of the game.

For the second consecutive year Beck, a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2009, spent time at the Predators’ training camp, including impressing on the club’s rookie squad. He said he appreciated the opportunity to learn from the best.

“It was a great experience. It was my second time in the camp and any time you’re around NHL players and guys that play on a regular basis, you’re going to want to take as much as you can from them each day and try to learn something different each day, and that’s what I try to do,” he said. “I also learned a bunch of stuff off-ice as well as on-ice — things I can do a little better, improve my game, and help us back here in Guelph.”

One of those players he latched on to was Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist. Beck explained he sees a lot of himself in the Swedish right winger and appreciated Hornqvist’s willingness to work with him.

“I looked up to Patric Hornqvist. He’s a similar type player to me. He’s probably one the best players in the NHL, if the not the best, at getting to the front of the net, making screens, and he makes an office in front and puts a lot of pucks in the net,” he said. “He taught me a lot of things, he’s a really nice guy and he always helped me out, and he encouraged me to ask questions if I wasn’t sure. That’s what I want to do when I get to the next level — be that kind of guy.

“You definitely learn a lot by watching them every day in practice — they don’t take a shift off or a practice off, they work as hard as they can every time they’re on the ice and that’s definitely what Hornqvist did. It’s a little intimidating at first, but this was my second time around, so I felt a little bit more comfortable and going up to the players and talking to them was a little bit easier.”

Guelph Storm head coach Jason Brooks said that Beck’s willingness to study the game has served him well to date and will be a key aspect of any future success the right winger enjoys.

“He’s a very professional kid, he takes care of himself very well. He’s looking to improve his game and he watches a lot of game film just to see what he can do better,” Brooks said. “He watches NHL games, he watches clips of NHL players that he can compare himself to to see what he needs to do and things he needs to do to get to that next level.”

While the on-ice lessons were important, Beck explained that what he learned about off-ice conditioning has been equally as vital.

“A lot of it was about food and nutrition, they take that very seriously and they taught me a lot. Another thing I learned was about stretching,” Beck said. “They don’t do a lot of heavy weights, but they focus a lot on dynamic stretching and dynamic workouts, and that’s something that I took back to Guelph and hopefully I can teach it to a couple of guys back here.

“One of the biggest thing that I took away with me is the preparation before and after the games that the players take part in, and that’s something I’ve improved over the past two years. I’m trying to show as many players as I can — especially the younger guys — what it takes to get to the NHL.”

Being a leader in the OHL and helping guys learn what it takes is important to Beck, although he admits there’s a challenge for younger kids to understand the lessons — it’s something that he experienced firsthand as a younger player.

“I played with Drew Doughty (LA) in my first year, but it was only when I went to my first camp that I really learned a lot,” Beck said. “You can try to teach them as much as you want, but it’s really experience that gets you going.”

In an interview with Predlines, Beck admitted that while Mario Lemieux used to be his favourite player, he’s switched his allegiance to Shane Doan (PHO). He said the reason is due to some advice he received from his future bench boss Barry Trotz.

“It definitely used to be Mario, but over the last couple of years with Nashville, Trotz wants me to focus on being a Shane Doan-type player — that’s what he thinks I’m going to be when I finally make it to the NHL,” he said. “That’s definitely what I want to do. I took that as a very heavy compliment and I’m watching film on him every day and I’m trying to learn more and more.

“He’s a leader on and off the ice, he takes pucks to the net, gets in front, and is already ready to help out his team and do whatever it takes to win.”

Although he hasn’t had a chance to meet the player he’s trying to emulate, that’s something he hopes to do in the near future — again, to learn.

“No I haven’t yet,” he said. “Hopefully someday soon I can get to ask him for a couple of tips about how he’s been able to be so successful.”

Beck’s time in the film room and off-ice habits are being noticed by his teammates, Brooks said. And he holds up his forward as an example for the youth on the Storm.

“I think that rubs off on players,” Brooks explained. “I don’t think there’s a player in junior hockey where there’s nothing they can’t work on. He’s good at a lot of things and he wants to be great at a lot of things.

“The thing about Taylor is that he’s willing to work at those things; he’s willing to work at his skating to be a better skater; he’s willing to work on his shot; he’s willing to work on his quickness and his flexibility. He’s a kid that understands that, gets that, and will do those things to achieve his goal.”

Beck’s already enjoyed a stellar junior career. Last year, he finished the OHL campaign with 39 goals and 54 assists to finish fourth overall in league scoring — and tops amongst right wingers. For his efforts he earned the Jim Mahon Memorial Trophy, which is bestowed upon the league’s top right winger. This year, he hopes to continue to build upon that solid foundation.

“I just want to continue what I did last year and get better each day,” Beck said. “I want to keep working on my defensive game and all areas, and focus on good habits because that’s what I know it takes to go to the next level.

“Good habits on and off the ice, and if I can work on something every day to get better, then that’s what it’s going to do.”

So far, so good. In 11 games, Beck has scored seven goals and added six assists. Brooks explained that Beck’s success comes from doing the little things well.

“Taylor’s games is a very effective north-south game, he does a great job getting pucks in, he does a great job winning those battles,” he said. “Those are the things he needs to do to get to the next level and those are the things he does well.”

Beck has benefitted from power skating training by former Canadian Olympian and world pairs figure skating champion Barb Underhill. And he certainly respects Underhill’s abilities beyond the Salchows and toe loops.

“I started in my 16-year-old year and, yeah, it was a bit of a surprise that she is such a good hockey skater,” he said. “I think she can beat every guy on our team in a race.”

To his credit, Beck is not satisfied with his accomplishments and recognizes a number of areas in which he needs to improve.

“I’ve worked a lot on my skating the past couple of years and it’s something that been getting better, but it can never be too good,” he said. “I’m definitely going to work on that, along with the physical part of my game and the defense play can always be better. Just working on my good habits every day.

“I know what it takes to get to the NHL, I think, and good habits are what’s going to get me there. Just getting better each day — that’s what I’m going to do.”