Growing on us
Beattie's physical, hockey development have him positioned to get a look in Pittsburgh next month
by Kirk Luedeke/NYHJ Writer
Matt Beattie has done a lot of growing over the last five years.
The playmaking center from Whitehouse Station, N.J., arrived at Pingry Prep in the Garden State as a 5-foot-6 freshman in 2007, but graduated from high school topping out at 6-foot-3. The goal-scoring numbers grew as well, going from 33 to 35 to 39 markers from his junior and senior prep seasons to his post-graduate year with Phillips Exeter this past winter.
“It was definitely a lot faster,” Beattie told New York Hockey Journal recently, when asked about the transition to the New England prep competition. “I had a chance to get adjusted to it in the fall. I skated with my team a little bit and played in the fall league. I got used to the pace so it was a pretty easy transition once the season started.”
There is truth to Beattie’s assertion, as he hit the ground running at Exeter. He led the team in scoring from wire to wire, finishing with a league-high 39 goals and 73 points in just 28 games. At various points in the year, he was averaging three points per game before settling in at a final 2.61 points-per-game clip.
He and teammate Brian Hart combined for a scintillating 70 goals and 138 points between them, forming the most dynamic power duo of point-getters at the prep level. Unfortunately for Beattie, he and his Exeter teammates, who posted an outstanding 22-3-5 regular-season record, fell in the NEPSAC semifinals game to Noble and Greenough School.
“(I’m) tall, lanky, like to carry the puck,” said Beattie, describing himself as a player. “I like to go wide and drive the net. That’s pretty much my go-to move. I see the ice well. I could use a little strength out there, but that’s my game.”
One NHL scout who watched one of Beattie’s offensive outbursts this season marveled at how easy the Garden State product made it look at times. He was ranked 108th on Central Scouting’s final list of draft-eligible North American skaters.
“It was almost as if he was one of those high-end beer league players and I mean that in a good way,” the scout said. “You know the type — the guy who can do anything he wants and makes everyone else look like they’re skating in slow motion — that was how Beattie looked to me. With his size and hockey IQ, he could end up being a pretty good prospect in a few years.”
The book on Beattie is that he thinks the game at a high level and possesses the natural instincts to find open teammates all over the ice with pinpoint passes. He’s lacking in the strength and mass to maximize his large frame, but as he physically matures, Beattie should be able to develop into a forward in the mold of a Joe Thornton, who uses his size, reach and deft stick to generate offense and give opposing defenses a lot to think about.
“He’s such a good player,” said Providence College-bound defenseman Will Goss, his Exeter teammate who only had to face Beattie in practice. “He’s got that real long stride, soft hands and great vision. And, he does things that make you just go wow sometimes.
“I still remember this one play where he came over the blue line, looked the defender one way, then put the puck through his legs, skated around him and made a perfect setup pass for a goal. Those are the kinds of things Matt does that you can’t coach in a player — either you can do it or you can’t — and he can.”
Beattie’s success at the New Jersey and New England prep level earned the 19-year-old a scholarship to Yale University, a commitment he secured early in the season.
“I was really excited,” he said. “All of my college options unfolded in a day. I took a trip to New Haven to meet Coach (Keith) Allain and I loved it. I’m really looking forward to it next year.”
Beattie’s experience in prep, coupled with his natural size, could set him up to make an immediate impact offensively at the NCAA level when he arrives as a freshman.
“One of the main reasons why I chose Yale was that was one of the places I thought I would be the most challenged athletically and, obviously, academically,” Beattie said. “I’d like to step in right away and make a big impact. I think I can if I could put on a little bit more weight. We’ll see how it goes.”
Beattie’s ascension from New Jersey standout to legitimate NHL draft candidate didn’t happen overnight, but his recognition in 2011 as New Jersey Player of the Year started the gifted forward on a potential path to the professional ranks.
“He’s such a smart player and he has a feel and an anticipation of what to do on the ice,” Beattie’s prep coach, John Magadini, told the Newark Star-Ledger last year. “And he works just as hard in practice as he does in the game. Matt is a leader in every respect and is one of the best players I’ve ever coached at Pingry. This kid is a sensational package.”
Although the late-bloomer has had to bide his time through one NHL draft, there appears to be enough buzz from the scouting community after his sensational post-grad campaign that Beattie will get a call next month from Pittsburgh.
If drafted, that achievement will be one more milestone in Beattie’s impressive growth spurt in such a relatively short time.
Kirk Luedeke can be reached at email@example.com.
NYHJ TOP FIVE
1. Cristoval “Boo” Nieves (Baldwinsville, N.Y.)
C Kent Lions/Indiana Ice (USHL)
6-foot-3, 185 pounds
Excellent late-season run with Indiana Ice (10 points in 13 games) ended with a return to Kent to finish up school after missing USHL playoffs. Finished as Central Scouting’s 27th-ranked North American skater.
2. Anthony Stolarz (Jackson, N.J.)
G Corpus Christi Ice Rays (NAHL)
6-foot-5, 200 pounds
Stellar performer jumped from 20th goalie on Central’s midseason North American goalie rankings to fourth on the final list.
3. Nick Ebert (Livingston, N.J.)
D Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
6-foot-1, 202 pounds
Completed an up and down year with six goals, 39 points in 66 OHL games. Disappointing 96th Central Scouting ranking drops his stock, but still brings more upside than any other player in the region.
4. Dylan Blujus (Amherst, N.Y.)
D Brampton Battalion (OHL)
6-foot-3, 185 pounds
71st-ranked North American skater is the complete package for a two-way defender: size, mobility, skill and potential.
5. Matt Lane (Rochester, N.Y.)
F U.S. NTDP
5-foot-9, 165 points
At 150th overall on Central’s list, the speedy, energetic and opportunistic Boston University recruit was also a key member of Team USA’s fourth consecutive gold medal-winning team at the 2012 World Under-18 Championship.
Zachary Aston-Reese, C Lincoln Stars (USHL) 6-1, 190 (Staten Island, N.Y.)
Exclusion from final Central rankings may not prevent the budding power forward and Northeastern recruit from being drafted.
Matt Beattie, C Phillips Exeter Academy (Whitehouse Station, N.J.)
-- KIRK LUEDEKE