After a 32-goal rookie season in the Western Hockey League, Adam Beckman had already illustrated his scoring skill.
“He wasn’t gonna fly under the radar,” said Manny Viveiros, Beckman’s coach with the Spokane Chiefs.
Beckman started out the 2019-20 season with 32 points in his first 20 games, a point in the season when teams have played most of their opponents at least once and are somewhat known quantities.
But even when consistently facing opponents’ best lines and defensive pairings, the 18-year-old Beckman only got better, with 75 points in his final 43 games.
That body of work – statistically the best in the WHL – earned Beckman the Western Conference Player of the Year honor on Tuesday.
“Everything he’s done, from the beginning of the year on, has been outstanding,” Viveiros said of Beckman. “How much he’s progressed as a hockey player, and more than anything, the maturation of him as far as becoming a veteran leader and taking that next step.”
Dylan Cozens, a center for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Year. He and Beckman are the two candidates for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy for WHL Player of the Year, to be announced May 20.
Beckman is the first Chiefs player to earn the conference award since Mitch Holmberg after the 2013-14 season. Ray Whitney (1990-91) is the only Chiefs player to go on to be named WHL Player of the Year.
The announcement came a day after Chiefs teammate Ty Smith was named the Western Conference’s top defenseman.
Beckman led the WHL in points (107), goals (48) and shots on goal (316). Since 1994, Beckman, Holmberg and Tyler Johnson are the only Chiefs players to record a 100-point season.
Cozens, who was picked seventh overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2019 NHL draft, scored 38 goals and added 47 assists in 51 games for Lethbridge. Cozens won the gold medal at the World Juniors along with Smith, representing Team Canada in January.
Beckman, a third-round selection by the Minnesota Wild in that 2019 draft, appreciated the honor but said he had looked forward to a run for a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup title this spring.
“Our team was unbelievable,” Beckman said. “Our team was trending in the right direction. It was so much fun.”
The Chiefs closed out the shortened season on a 10-game winning streak, which included a 6-3 victory at Lethbridge. Beckman scored twice and had three assists in that game. Cozens was held scoreless on seven shots and finished minus-5.
During Beckman’s rookie season, in 2018-19, the Chiefs won two playoff series before losing in the Western Conference finals to Vancouver. He scored eight goals and had four assists in 15 playoff games.
Beckman said he thinks this Chiefs team will reload similarly to how it did after that run to the conference finals.
“I think our team’s built again to be good next year as well,” he said. “We’re gonna have guys who step in and have bigger roles. … I think we have a really good group to do something special.”
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