Playoff Audition for Taylor Beck?

With great production in the AHL, 25-year-old Taylor Beck has been chomping at the bit to make his return to the NHL. As announced earlier today, he’s getting his chance.

Conventional wisdom would say that this is a depth move to provide reinforcements as some regulars continue to rest over the season’s final two games against Ottawa and Pittsburgh. However, questions on the fourth line mean that Beck could make a case for himself as a playoff fixture if he plays well.

The sixth-year pro was named as a first-team AHL All-Star this season and has been ultra productive. Before coming to Hartford via trade on March 1st, Beck registered 50 points in 40 games with the Bakersfield Condors and has 13 points in 14 games since joining the Wolf Pack. His 63 total points rank second in the AHL.

But AHL success is not Beck’s goal, and he’s been open about that.

I’m just working as hard as I can to get back to the NHL, whether it’s here [New York] or someplace else. All I want to do is get back there.

Beck is a 90-game NHL veteran whose strongest year came in 2014-15 with Nashville. He registered 16 points in 62 games while playing 11:56 per night. For comparison, Tanner Glass played in 66 and 57 games in his first two seasons with the Rangers but has only managed a total of 13 points and hasn’t averaged more than 10:17 in a season. Nicklas Jensen, who has also thrived in Hartford this year, played seven games with the Rangers this year but did not tally a point and only averaged 9:13 in his appearances.

Those two are worth mentioning because, should Alain Vigneault not trust Pavel Buchnevich in the playoffs, that’s who Beck will be competing with for ice time. Glass has gotten the nod recently and Jensen has been called up as the last winger in the past but not performed. If Beck can bring sound defensive play and a bit of offensive punch to the fourth line, he could carve out a nice playoff role. His reel from Nashville gives a good glimpse of his offensive upside with both high awareness in the transition game and a willingness to go to dirty areas.

It’s hard to imagine any player getting two games in the regular season and then seeing significant ice time in the playoffs, but with Buchnevich’s inexperience and Glass’ lack of skill, there could be an opening on the Rangers’ fourth line with Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg. A player who can mesh with those could be invaluable since this Blueshirts club will need to lean on its forward depth to make a serious run.

At this point, it’s impossible to know what Beck might bring to the table, but we should expect him to get a long, hard look in his two-game audition this weekend.

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