With all the talent surrounding the Washington Capitals roster, many overlook the contributions of the grinders, including the hard working fourth line players. One Capitals’ player who has transformed his game beyond a fourth line grinder is forward, Jay Beagle.
Beagle, soon to turn 27 on October 16th, has turned himself from an ECHL player to an NHL player and a highly scratched player to a steady fourth line center and penalty kill specialist. The hard working Capitals forward attended the University of Alaska for two years before turning pro, playing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). He struggled putting up the same type of offensive numbers in college hockey than he did with the Calgary Royals, a junior hockey league team. While playing for Alaska University, Beagle totaled 30 points in two collegiate seasons. Following his two year stint at the college level, he found his next opportunity in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), playing for the Idaho Steelheads. Beagle played in eight games with the Steelheads following the completion of the college hockey season, registering two goals and eight assists in the spring of 2007.
Following his time in the ECHL during the 2006-2007 season, Beagle signed his first American Hockey League (AHL) contract with the Hershey Bears, the minor league affiliate of the Washington Capitals. He put up astounding numbers during his first season in Hershey, totaling 19 goals and 18 assists in 64 regular season games. He stayed in Hershey the following season, but his numbers diminished. Beagle only registered nine points in 47 regular season games, but earned an NHL contract with the Washington Capitals for the next season. The main reason for the signing was that Washington needed a player to fill their roster due to injuries late in the regular season. He played in three games in the nation’s capital that spring, after he finalized his first NHL contract on March 26th, 2008.
The 2008-2009 campaign was a huge stepping stone for Beagle, as he picked up his offense at the AHL level the following year during the 2009-2010 season, totaling 35 points in 66 games. He also notched his first NHL points with Washington, earning a goal and an assist in seven regular season games. During the 2010-2011 campaign, Beagle split time between Hershey and Washington playing in 31 and 34 games between the two clubs respectively. At that time Beagle had established his role at the NHL level, a fourth line grinder and a forward who can help out on the penalty kill. This past season, he spent the entire season in the NHL, playing in 41 games totaling five points. He became a trusted component on the Capitals forwards unit, often appearing in late game situations under Dale Hunter in the postseason, including time on the penalty kill. He even contributed offensively this postseason, registering a goal and an assist in twelve playoff games.
Beagle hit restricted free agency this offseason and the Capitals were smart in resigning him. Capitals General Manager, George McPhee signed the fourth line grinder to a three year contract worth $2.7 million, inking Beagle early this offseason. Whenever the season starts, Beagle should be penciled in as the fourth line center and will play an instrumental part on the Capitals second power play unit. He has proven to be more than a defensive specialist, often stepping in for a teammate and is willing to fight, win or lose.
Beagle has become a fan favorite in the nation’s capital and fits the mold of a gritty forward, which Washington needs more of.
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