For someone who hasn’t played a second of professional hockey, it feels like Jack Becker has been around for a little while.
And in some respects, he has.
Becker, a rising senior winger at Michigan, was a 2015 seventh-round selection of the Boston Bruins. He certainly has more experience now than when the Bruins drafted him five years ago — at that point, he had just finished playing in three different leagues in one season between his high school team, the Upper Midwest High School Elite League Hockey as well as the USHL.
But a lot has happened since the Summer of 2015 — he played two more years of juniors, and now has three seasons with the Wolverines behind him.
For years now, a massive point of emphasis for him has been improving his skating ability. He has a nice finishing touch and can defend well and over his 101 games at Michigan he has 22 goals and 20 assists, contributing eight goals and four helpers in 32 games this past season.
Becker is a big kid at 6-foot-4, but his weight is listed at 192 pounds. So in addition to improving the skating ability, he’s also trying to fill out so he can better use his large frame to improve his puck possession.
“Yeah I think (my skating) has gotten a lot better,” Becker said in a phone conversation with NESN.com last month. If you look at freshman year especially I put it in a lot of work with our strength coach there and have had some skating coaches too so I’ve been working. I feel a lot better with how I move on the ice and (now am) just trying to shore up a few things and work on my mechanics, and get more power out of my hips and calming down my upper body because my body can sometimes go a little crazy because I’m just putting in so much effort.
“Right now I’ve actually got a slideboard at home which is helping me work my mechanics, and I’m trying to increase my power with the weight training right now. Just trying to grown into my body a bit, I’m 6-4, I’m pretty lanky, so trying to add a little more muscle on my lower frame just to help with the power and stability on the ice.
Having been drafted in 2015, Becker long has had a line of communication with the Bruins — specifically ex-NHLers Chris Kelly and Jamie Langenbrunner, who work in player development for Boston.
The Bruins’ 2019 development camp was Becker’s fifth since getting drafted. And in addition to the skating, the organization has given him a few other things to chew on, while also staying connected with him while he’s in Ann Arbor.
“A lot of it is skating with me because the game is so fast and guys move so well out there, so I think that’s the biggest piece they given me to work on),” Becker said. “Just from development camps I’m trying to absorb everything, a lot of small details like puck protection on the wall and getting the puck in my hip … and because I have a big body, using that more effectively to shield the puck from opponents. I think that’s a big thing. And just talking to the development staff throughout the year, Chris Kelly and Jamie Langenbrunner have given me excellent feedback to work on.”
Time is winding down on Becker’s days as an amateur hockey player, making his upcoming season imperative for him to fine-tune his game more before hitting the pro ranks.
As a result, he has plenty of goals he’s trying to reach.
“Coaches always talk about how it’s got to be your best year,” Becker said. “Looking to increase my production, I think I’m a pretty good goal-scorer, so I’m going to try to increase the number of goals have I have next season. Just work on that and work on the details of the game. … I want to see myself increasing that production, but also increasing the time I can feel comfortable protecting the puck and just really elevate my 200-foot game.”
Becker also has a familiar face with him at Michigan in Bruins 2019 first-rounder Johnny Beecher.
Early on in the season, Beecher centered a line with Becker, giving the latter a prime opportunity to see what the organization has in Beecher.
“His speed down the middle is really impressive, it opens up a lot of things, like to get the puck in the neutral zone you can give him a pass in the middle and he can blow by guys,” Becker said. “The biggest thing is his speed and how he can just open up the ice and create more space for you.
“He’s really fun to play with, and you get the puck a lot, and move around a lot and get a lot of offensive zone time with him,” Becker added. “He’s just really fun to play with, and he’s also a really smart player too. So he’s a good guy to have on your line for sure.”
For now, Becker is back in his native Minnesota and considering himself fortunate that he already had a home gym setup ready to go. He has a workout plan through Michigan, and is hoping if given the go-ahead at some point he can return to campus and work out on the ice with his teammates.
He’s also been keeping up with sports news not related to hockey. He admittedly is not a big football fan, but does have a unique connection to Tom Brady between playing sports at Michigan and working with the same sports psychologist that Brady did in college, Greg Harden.
So, does Becker think Brady made the right call leaving the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
“Obviously it’s going to be weird seeing him in a Tampa Bay uniform,” Becker said. “You’re so used to seeing him in the Patriots uniform. But I think it’ll be pretty cool and I think he’ll do pretty well.
“I’ve seen he’s filed for a couple trademarks, like Tampa Brady or Tompa Bay,” Becker also noted. “He seems to be working on his business ventures with the whole TB12 method and everything about that. I think it could end up being pretty cool.”