If Taylor Beck can maintain his current three-points-per-game average at Air Canada Centre, he should make out just fine as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
We jest. But in his lone NHL homecoming game, playing against the club he grew up rooting for, in front of family and friends on Nov. 18, the St. Catherines, Ont., native scored two goals and added an assist.
In other words, he had the kind of game the Nashville Predators would not afford him often. Beck skated 16:18 that Tuesday his Nashville Predators whipped the home team 9-2, and he’d only see that much ice time once more in 2014-15.
A blue and white jersey was thrown on the ice, and our own producer here titled the highlight pack “Carnage at the ACC.”
“That was a night I’ll never forget,” Beck told host Jeff Sammut on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Monday night. “I’ve always been an offensive guy, and I don’t plan to ever change that.”
The winger’s offensive leanings were stifled in Music City, where he sat behind 20-goal men James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith on coach Peter Laviolette’s depth chart.
Twice a 90-point player in the Ontario Hockey League, Beck was given a shutdown role he says he enjoyed. But the defensive task wasn’t a natural fit.
A restricted free agent, the 24-year-old filed for arbitration and hoped for a trade.
“We thought a change of scenery might be the best thing for me,” Beck said from his off-season training home in Los Angeles. “My agent called me and told me it might happen, and I was just thrilled when I heard the news.”
With the Maple Leafs dealing away Phil Kessel, new right wingers like Beck and P.A. Parenteau have inked cheap one-year deals in hopes of showcasing their talents on a rebuilding club with trailer-loads of hype.
The weaker the team, the bigger the role.
“Extreme excitement” is how Beck, a Mats Sundin guy, described his emotions on Sunday. “I’m going to get a bit more of a chance in Toronto. I’m an offensive guy, and I’m looking to chip in.”
The big forward (six-foot-two, 206 pounds) is encouraged by his new bench boss, Mike Babcock (“He knows how to win”), and is stoked to reunite with centre Peter Holland, with whom he developed nasty chemistry on the Guelph Storm during the tandem’s four years in junior.
In his last two OHL seasons, Beck scored 81 goals in 123 games; linemate Holland had 100 assists in that span. Beck has his fingers crossed that Babcock plops him on a line with Holland.
“We certainly played well together in Guelph,” Beck said. “We’ve been talking the last couple days, and if that opportunity comes, it would be great.”