The Calgary Flames have had some very good luck picking undersized forwards in the sixth round of the NHL draft over the years. Whether it was Andrew Mangiapane from the Soo Greyhounds in 2015, Matthew Phillips from the Victoria Royals in 2016, or even 5’10” forward Brett Hull from the Penticton Knights back in 1984, the Calgary Flames have a long history of taking gambles on smaller guys which have been very good.
Currently, the Flames have two players absolutely lighting up the OHL: Rory Kerins of the Soo Greyhounds and Jack Beck of the Ottawa 67’s. Both sit in the top-10 of scoring in the league, with Kerins sitting first and Beck sitting eighth. Beck is currently tied for first in goals scored with eight markers to his name through the first eight games. With the OHL consistently ranked as one of the best development leagues for young prospects, this is no small feat. Let’s break down what has made each one special.
Kerins has had a very unique road through his junior hockey career up to this point. His first season in junior was not great, as he got adjusted to the speed of the new game. He put up just 23 points in 57 games, but then went on to put up 59 in 60 in his draft season. Without a track record of success at the junior level, his draft stock fell, and the Flames ended up nabbing him in the sixth round.
However, in spite of his numbers, scouts raved about Kerins in his draft year. Not only did he put up the fourth most even strength goals in his draft year, but scouts who went to see other players would also end up writing about him and his game. They noted how strong his two-way game was for a second-year player, and how responsible he was with the puck.
Offensively, it was his shot that stole the show, with many commenting on just how hard and effective it was. Kerins models his game off of his family friend Sean Monahan, and it is his release from right in front of the net that makes him so effective. A really strong skater, he packs a lot of punch in his 5’10” frame—something that the Flames no doubt love to see.
Last season, Kerins played with the Stockton Heat, but only managed to get into four games on the ice. This was likely due to him being very young for professional hockey as well as with the Heat having such a deep roster. That being said, it is clear how much of an impact practicing with the Heat had on his game given his performance this year.
The one thing that stands out about Kerins this season is how he always manages to find himself in the right place at the right time to bang in a rebound or create a scoring chance. When you watch him the first time it seems like a magician’s trick the way he constantly finds a way to be open in front of the net, but then you look at the platy again and it is because he is simply able to push his way to where he needs to go. Check out this play from a goal he scored this past week:
Keep your eyes on #23 at centre. He wins the draw and gets tangled up with the opposing centreman. However, despite his counterpart being substantially bigger than him and hassling him throughout the play, Kerins is able to get away from him and right to the front of the net for the goal. He just knew where to be to get that goal.
What stands out even more than his ability to find the front of the net is his shot. He is a pure sniper, with a hard, accurate shot that can beat goalies clean from just about anywhere. Check out this goal from an angle that beats the netminder clean five-hole:
In any normal case, you would imagine the goaltender to have that shot every single time, but it is Kerins’ patience and ability to pick his spot that makes it so much more challenging than it looks at face value. It is so hard to teach a player to have a shot like that, that having a guy who can score in the OHL almost on command is a huge asset for the Flames’ prospect pool.
Unlike Kerins, Beck did not get to have a draft year to show off what makes him such a special player the way that Kerins did. Instead, the Flames were forced to rely on video evidence from the previous season and his numbers from AAA to judge whether to take him. Luckily, aside from his first season in junior, Beck has always been above a point-per-game player, and although he was not in his first year in Ottawa, there were a lot of positive signs in his rookie year.
Initially expected to slot into a sheltered role on a deep 67’s team, Beck found himself on the team’s second line, alongside over-ager Mitch Hoelscher and former eighth-overall pick Jack Quinn. This line was dynamic, but as the third option on the line, Beck did not end up with as many points as his linemates, finishing with seven goals and 19 points in 56 games. However, while he could not put up too many points, his playmaking skills were on full display, which showcased a very different side of his game.
What scouts loved most of all with his game is his speed. He is just so fast on his skates and can beat defencemen wide on the rush to the net. What is more, however, is his ability to move his feet to get around checks, especially in tight. Check out this play, and the way he is able to move to score this goal:
Beck knows that in this case, it is not about his speed, but about his smarts to get a clean chance on net. He is able to drag around the defenceman, hold the puck for an extra second, then use his wicked release to beat the netminder clean.
Indeed, it is his release and his hands that have served him just so well this season. Beck has been both good and lucky to start the year. Lucky to be able to get the chances that he has (including this next clip below), but good to be able to capitalize :
I’m not sure what is more impressive: the smarts it took to take the puck away from the defender right in front of the net, the hands to get the goalie to drop to stop the puck, or the strength to roof that puck into the top of the net to seal the win for the 67’s. Put it all together and the Flames clearly have the makings of a very good player in Beck.
What is next for Beck and Kerins?
Both prospects have been on a tear to start the season, and while there are some incredible players in the OHL, if both can finish the season above a point-per-game pace, it bodes very well for their future in the NHL. Both the 67’s and Greyhounds have started the year off strong, and both Kerins and Beck will be hoping to lead their teams to the Memorial Cup at the end of the season. There is guaranteed to be at least one Flames prospect in the championship this year: Jeremie Poirier who plays for the host Saint John Sea Dogs, but with how the season is going so far, there is a very good chance one of these two could be joining him on the east coast in June.
From there, the two OHLer’s paths will likely diverge. Kerins will likely join the Stockton Heat to start next season, instead of staying in the OHL as an over-ager. Beck likely has one more season to go in the league, having only played in one season prior to this one in junior. However, he has a lot of runway to keep growing his game and developing physically before taking the next step in his journey.
The Flames have done very well in their picks from the OHL, with Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, Rasmus Andersson, and the aforementioned Mangiapane all among the Flames’ skaters from this league already on the roster. Undoubtedly, Kerins and Beck have the potential to join this group in a few years. If they can continue to put up points the way that they have to this point, the future looks very bright for the organization.