Wild rookie Beckman shows scoring prowess in preseason opener

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Adam Beckman has been a scorer throughout his career, piling up goals in minor hockey and as a junior player.

That didn't change when the Wild prospect had his first sample of NHL action, scoring twice in the team's preseason opener Saturday that finished a 6-2 loss at St. Louis.

"A lot of guys come here and they'll be like, 'Oh, I have to pass the puck over to [Kevin] Fiala or I have to pass to [Kirill] Kaprizov or [Mats] Zuccarello,'" coach Dean Evason said. "He doesn't. He's like, 'I'm shooting the puck.'

"Those are the guys that separate and end up making it. He's made a nice step in the first game."

A third-round draft pick in 2019, Beckman is turning pro after a stellar stint in the Western Hockey League.

He had 32 goals in 2018-19 for the Spokane Chiefs and then a whopping league-best 48 the following season. The winger also paced the WHL in points in 2019-20 with 107 and was crowned the league's player of the year.

Last season, Beckman split time between Iowa in the American Hockey League and the WHL, scoring at nearly a goal-per-game pace for Spokane (17 in 21 games) and recording three goals in nine games for Iowa.

"Growing up, I've tried to score as many goals as I can," said Beckman, who capitalized against the Blues on a shot from the outside and then buried a 3-on-0 rush. "I think obviously it's very hard to do at the NHL level, so I'm just going to try and continue to improve and do what I can to hopefully make that happen."

Like the Wild's other prized prospects Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy, the 20-year-old Beckman is vying for a roster spot and while he flashed his scoring prowess Saturday, Evason also singled out Beckman's energy and grit.

Evason wasn't as complimentary about the performance of the team's regulars in the game, a group that included Jordan Greenway, Nick Bjugstad, Victor Rask and Nico Sturm.

"We weren't happy with our veterans," Evason said. "They didn't lead like they were supposed to lead. We were super happy with our young players and how they played. But 2-2 hockey game, that should have been when our older guys took over and led and did all the right things, and we didn't."

Tune-up time

After the power play was hot and cold last season, the Wild has changed its setup already in training camp — moving Kaprizov from the middle to along the wall.

"He's so good in the middle," Evason said. "But we might be able to get some more out of him scoring-wise on the flank."

Kaprizov, Fiala, Zuccarello, Joel Eriksson Ek and Jared Spurgeon have worked as one unit, with Marcus Foligno, Frederick Gaudreau, Ryan Hartman, Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin rotating with Alex Goligoski in the other group.

The Wild scored 29 goals on the power play last season in 165 chances through 56 games, a 17.6 percent efficiency that ranked 24th in the NHL. Nineteen of those tallies came in the final 22 games in April and May, a strong finish after a slow 3-for-50 start.

"It was great for stretches and real good at the end of the year," Evason said. "But it was a sour point, for sure, and Day 1 we started working on our structure, getting it in our heads. There's no question that it was an area of concern last year. We don't want it to be this year."

Roster cuts

The Wild made its first round of cuts on Sunday, trimming its camp roster to 46 players.

Forwards Caedan Bankier and Pavel Novak and defensemen Daemon Hunt, Carson Lambos, Kyle Masters and Ryan O'Rourke were sent back to their junior clubs. Forward Bryce Misley and goalie Trevin Kozlowski were released from their tryouts and will report to Iowa's training camp.

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