It’s not totally unheard of for a player to be passed over at a Canadian Hockey League draft and go on to have a great career.
Jarome Iginla, for example, wasn’t drafted into the Western Hockey League, but went on to play three seasons with the Kamloops Blazers and was taken with the 11th overall pick by the Dallas Stars in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft.
Iginla has gone on to a tremendous NHL career with the Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche. He has also suited up for Team Canada on many occasions and, of course, assisted on the Golden Goal, Sidney Crosby’s overtime winner in the 2010 Olympic gold medal game.
So it’s understandable why Jake Bean was able to quickly shake off some of the disappointment that came with not being taken in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Over 200 players were selected over 12 rounds at the 2013 draft. Bean, not being one of them, was disappointed. But he remained focused on getting bigger and better and stuck to his plan.
That dedication has paid off as Bean, a 16-year-old rookie defenceman with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, was selected as one of the best 66 players in Canada in his age group and will play with Canada Black at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sarnia-Lambton, Ont.
“I had a pretty good year in Bantam,” says Bean. “I was a little smaller than the top guys in that draft. I thought I had a chance to get drafted there. When I didn’t get drafted, I was a little upset. But I kind of kept on the same path I was on all year, I kept training and trusted that it would pay off eventually.”
Bean played Bantam and Midget at the Edge School for Athletes just outside of Calgary and, in 2013-14 (his Midget season), was named defenceman of the year in the Elite 15s division of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
A year earlier, Bean had 53 points in 44 games as a Bantam with the Edge School, and actually points to that as his breakout season.
“I was working pretty hard in Bantam,” he says. “What helped was the guidance from my parents and my dad (Calgary Flames COO John Bean). They told me to keep doing what you’re doing, it’s not a one-day thing. It’s going to take weeks, months and years to develop. I kept going on that path.”
His Bantam performance didn’t go totally unnoticed; despite being passed over in the WHL draft, Bean was quickly listed by his hometown Hitmen, giving him a little extra motivation to impress in 2013-14 (as if he needed it).
The blue-liner was invited to be among 108 players at Hockey Canada’s national under-17 development camp last summer. At that camp, players practiced and played games, but also spent time learning about the Canadian program, what it means to wear the Maple Leaf, how to play, and how to win.
Soon after the camp, Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel, and his team of scouts got going on finalizing the top 66 players for Canada’s three teams at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
“(Bean) definitely deserved the opportunity to come to camp and, when he did, he showed his abilities really, really well,” says Jankowski. “I wouldn’t say he was THE best defenceman at our camp, but he was definitely in the top tier.
“Then, following up with him at the start of his CHL season, through the exhibition season, through the first weekends of CHL play, it validated what we saw at camp. It was really easy to get him on one of the three teams in a pretty good role.”
Bean describes himself as an offensive defenceman, a player who likes to join the rush and one who loves scoring goals. Jankowski agrees with that assessment but goes further, saying Bean is the type of player coaches can use in numerous situations, given his “great hockey sense, elite skating ability and exceptional poise with the puck.”
For his part, Bean can’t wait for the puck to drop in Sarnia-Lambton.
“It’s a pretty cool experience to be part of something new,” he says. “And wearing that Maple Leaf will be a pretty cool thing. It’s a huge honour just to be a part of the program.”