This wasn’t just the night the Ottawa Senators fell further out of contention for Connor Bedard by pulling five points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL standings, it was also the night Owen Beck made his NHL debut.
The 18-year-old skated 14 shifts in the world’s best hockey league, registering one shot attempt, one blocked shot, and winning one of three faceoffs in a game he’d have never been playing if not for Montreal having so many injured players that they could bring Beck up from major-junior on emergency recall.
On Friday morning, he was with the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes, sponging up a team video session. Beck was called into his coach’s office and told he should ring up his parents and friends to tell them to get to Ottawa for the special occasion.
By Friday evening, he was out with Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki and five other players he’d suit up with to face the Senators on Saturday.
To see him burst onto the ice at Canadian Tire Centre to take his rookie lap bucket-less and scratch off one of many bucket-list experiences he’s enjoyed since September was special. And, really, nothing was more relevant for the Canadiens on this night than that.
Not even their week ending with a 5-0 loss to the team directly above them in the standings, making it just one point earned for them in three games to help them potentially get closer to better odds of obtaining a generational talent in the upcoming draft.
Put that aside and think about Beck’s ascent to this moment. The 33rd overall pick in 2022 had a training camp with the Canadiens that made you wonder why it took until the second round for anyone to draft him. It earned him his first professional contract and sent him back to the Mississauga Steelheads riding a confidence surge that saw him produce 14 goals and 41 points in his first 30 games of the season.
Beck earned an invite to Team Canada’s world-junior selection camp, where he fared well but had the odds stacked against him to make the team due to the depth at centre and it typically being a 19-year-old’s tournament. He felt the sting of the cut before he was called back to help Canada win gold in Colton Dach’s absence.
Just 20 days later, with a trade to the Petes in between, Beck was sharing the ice with Colton’s older brother Kirby, who’s in the midst of his most dominant stretch as an NHLer.
Neither of them got on the board against the Senators, but one of them had the best experience of his life to date—even with the outcome stacked heavily against his team.
“I felt like I was ready for it,” Beck told reporters after the game.
He certainly didn’t appear intimidated by the moment, which he said was a function of the reps he got in exhibition.
“Preseason helped me slow the game down a little bit and not panic with the puck,” Beck explained.
He didn’t panic without it, either, playing with poise every time he stepped on the ice as his parents, his brother, and several friends looked on from the stands.
Beck’s teammates on the Canadiens’ bench, and on the ice, liked what they saw.
“I think he played extremely well, and I think we took notice,” David Savard told reporters. “He had some good moments—a 2-on-1—and we saw him do those things in camp. He’s a kid who’s extremely intelligent, and we saw that again tonight. I think we’re just happy he got that experience, even if it sucks it was in a loss like that. I think it’ll be good for the future of his career.”
It’s nothing short of great for Beck.
He’s headed back to Peterborough with the wind blowing strong in his sails, with confidence to eventually seize the opportunity to help carry the Petes deep into the OHL playoffs, with the hope to play in the Memorial Cup thereafter and with his NHL dream having been realized well ahead of schedule.
That Beck could say he played at this level and left his coach feeling like he belonged is as rich an experience as he could’ve hoped for.
“Yes! He played well,” said Martin St. Louis. “He appeared very comfortable on the ice. I’m proud of the kid.”
“He’s a hockey player,” St. Louis added. “We saw it in training camp, too. He’s a kid with a bright future in front of him.”
Beck took a huge step forward towards it on Saturday.