Habs prospect Owen Beck ready to share wisdom at Canada's world junior selection camp

OAKVILLE, Ont. — Owen Beck got a taste of the big stage in Halifax.

The centre was cut by Canada heading into last year's world junior hockey championship on home soil before being summoned ahead of the medal round as an injury replacement.

The 33rd pick at the 2022 NHL draft by the Montreal Canadiens all of a sudden found himself in the middle of the action.

Three games later, there was a gold medal hanging from his neck.

Fast-forward less than 12 months and the 19-year-old is the only returnee at the country's selection camp of 30 players looking to make the roster for the 2024 tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden.

"There's always ups and downs, but you've got to remain pretty steady," Beck said Sunday of what he learned from his surprise recall. "Don't get too high or too low. Just make sure you're always ready.

"Duty can call whenever."

Canada's hopefuls are in this suburb just west of Toronto going through two practice days and a pair of exhibition games before the final roster is announced Wednesday evening.

"They look super serious," head coach Alan Letang said following Sundays' 8 p.m. ET skate. "Lots of guys that had long days of travel. Our jump was excellent. Seems like a confident group."

Letang, who got the nod behind the bench for Canada after two world junior tournaments as an assistant, said Beck is an important part of set-up that will be largely walking into the unknown on the international stage at this level.

"He can talk about the intensity in the games, the importance of the little details," Letang said. "We touched on that a little bit in our one-on-one meeting. He'll be fine portraying that, but I think they all know what they're getting into.

"It's become such a tradition and such a huge tournament across Canada."

Beck, who has 16 goals and 30 points in 25 games for his hometown Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League in 2023-24, has the gold medal hanging in his bedroom.

"Always looking at it," he said. "Such a great memory."

Beck said a team that featured the likes of current NHLers Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Kevin Korchinski — all were eligible to return this year — was a resilient bunch.

"They went through ups and downs in the tournament," he said. "When they got to the medal round, everybody knew they had to be locked in and ready to go for every shift, every moment.

"Everybody bought in (and) was willing to play their role."

Letang said the arduous travel day for some players meant others based closer to the Greater Toronto Area had time to kill at the hotel. That allowed for meetings between players and coaches — including the chat between Beck and Letang.

"Maybe helped them let their guard down," said the coach. "And get comfortable with what we're doing."

Beck played sparingly at last year's tournament, picking up an assist and drawing a penalty, but was solid on faceoffs and responsible defensively.

Letang said there's a lesson there for this crop of hopefuls.

"You always ask guys with Hockey Canada to accept different roles than they normally have," he said. "What are you willing to sacrifice to help us achieve our ultimate goal?

"It just proved that it doesn't matter where you're slotted in the lineup, everyone at some point in the game gets to contribute and gets to potentially be the hero."

Beck said he sees a hungry group — even if there's significantly less star power than a year ago.

"The roster that makes it through is going to maintain that drive," he said. "We're going to be pushing each other the whole time."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2023.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press