Rode

Beechinor has skills to be picked in WHL draft

Justin Jarmolicz knows a thing or two about what it takes to be picked in the Western Hockey League Prospects Draft.

Jarmolicz is a long-time head coach of the Red Deer Rebels U15AAA program and has developed a number of WHL prospects.

So when he mentions Kyler Beechinor as a strong contender to be selected in the next WHL draft he knows what he’s talking about.

“He’s one of the top D-men in our league for sure and game-in and game-out he shows that,” he said. “I expect his name to be called on draft day, but it’s still not my call, so we’ll see.”

Beechinor is certainly hoping that’s the case.

“That’s my ultimate goal to play at that level … to play at the highest level I can,” said the 14-year-old Bentley native. “I haven’t talked with any scouts yet, but I still have time.”

The 14-year-old Beechinor sits fifth in scoring for defencemen in the Alberta Elite U15AAA Division with four goals and 16 assists in 17 games. He’s third on the Rebels.

While he enjoys the offensive side of the game, he takes pride in his defensive play.

“We have one of the best defensive teams in the league,” he said. “I have some offensive skills and see the ice well. I enjoy passing and setting up my teammates but I do think I’m more of a defensive player.”

Kyler does have to laugh when asked about why he choose to play defence.

“When I was younger I didn’t like going in the corners,” he said. “I guess now I’m in there more than ever.”

At five-foot-11 and 130-pounds he still has to fill out, but born and raised on a farm certainly helps his strength.

“Farm kids may not look stronger but they’re farm tough,” said Jarmolicz. “He’s working on the farm where he’s getting banged around by the cattle. They don’t give at all so going into the corners in our league isn’t so bad.”

Kyler admits working on a farm with 500 head of cattle has toughened him up.

“It does,” he said. “It certainly helps my legs and you’re constantly working. We also have dryland every Tuesday and Thursday and that helps as well.”

Kyler got his love for the game when he was four, banging around the house with his dad.

“We played mini sticks and I found I loved it,” he said.

He played dynamite up to U13AA in Bentley under coach Kelly McKinlay, who he credits for his early development as a rearguard.

“He showed me a lot and made me realize what it takes to be a defensive player and that I was good at my position.”

Kyler played U13AA in Sylvan Lake and was going to play U15AA there last season before it was cancelled because of Covid.

“He almost made our team last year,” said Jarmolicz. “We had a real strong team, but he would have been an affiliate.”

As it turned out no one really played.

“It was tough not playing,” Beechinor said. “But I did get to work on my skills more and we have a rink at home so my brothers and I played there when we wanted.”

His time on the ice plays a major role in his No. 1 strength — his skating.

“I take a lot of pride in my defence, but I believe my skating is my best asset,” he said. “I can get up to top speed quickly.

Jarmolicz agrees.

“Skating is his strongest suit, but he shoots the puck hard and is smart with it. He creates with his vision, so has a the whole package.”

But seeing the ice was something that Kyler had to work on.

“For sure it didn’t come natural. I had to work on getting my head up and feeling the puck on my stick.”

Kyler, who admire the likes of Cale Makar and Alex Pietrangelo, couldn’t be happier to make the Rebels this season.

“It was something I really wanted … I wanted to push myself to be better.”

He also spends time watching the WHL Rebels.

“As much as I can. I like watching certain players to see what they do in certain situations.”

Kyler helps make the Rebels one of the better teams in the U15AAA Division. They’re tied for second in the South Division with the Calgary Flames with a 14-5 record, four points back of Airdrie (16-2).

“Our team goal is to make the league final and go to provincials,” he said. “It’s been good so far.”

Hockey isn’t the only sport Kyler enjoys.

“I play hand ball in school,” he said. “It’s fun to play with my friends. They also push me to be better on the ice.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca