Jake Bean recently completed his third season in the NHL and first with the Blue Jackets. Each year he has played in significantly more games and has seen his ice time rise dramatically. He spent his first two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was buried on the depth chart for most of his tenure. In his first year in Columbus, he played a much different role as he was relied upon heavily to be a key piece on their blue line.
In Bean's first season in Carolina (2018-19), he appeared in just two games, being called up, on an emergency basis, from their AHL affiliate in Charlotte. He would only average eight-and-a-half minutes in each game then go back to Charlotte, not only for the remainder of that season but for the entirety of 2019-20 as well. The Calgary, Alberta native would not see the ice for the Hurricanes again until January of 2021. He appeared in 42 of 56 games that year while seeing his average time on ice (ATOI) almost double to 14-and-a-half minutes.
He arrived in Columbus last summer after being traded for the 44th pick in the 2021 draft, a pick that the CBJ had just acquired in the Seth Jones trade. It was expected that the 23-year-old defenseman would play a larger role on his new blue line due to it being so young and inexperienced. That he did, playing in 67 games and once again seeing his ice time increase to an ATOI of 20:34, spending a lot of the season on the second line. He did have a groin injury that kept him out for 14 games, but even with that, he easily set his record for most games played in a season.
With the increased opportunity came a big jump in the left-hander's offensive production, doubling his overall output from a previous high of 12 points to 25 this past season. He also set career highs in both goals and assists with seven and 18 respectively. One of the things that helped his increased goal production was a rise in his shooting percentage from a paltry 1.8% to a respectable 7.8%. He finished the season on a bit of a hot streak with five points in his final seven games.
In his second season with the team, Bean will look to build off of his breakout offensive performance. However, his main focus will be to add a consistently strong defensive game to his repertoire. Back in April, our own Will Chase wrote about Bean's desire to focus more on his defensive game and become a balanced defender. Here is what Bean had to say on the matter.
"I do want to continue to push offensively," Bean said following his two-goal output against the Ducks. "I think that's a big part of my game. You watch (Zach Werenski), he plays a lot of offense, but he's also responsible and he has enough in the tank to play defense at the same time so I think that's something I'm trying to find at this level playing against top guys."
"I could play offense all day but it's a little harder when you play offense for 45 seconds and you've got to go defend against Ryan Getzlaf. I think finding that (balance) is something I've been working on and something I want to continue to do and that's going to help my game."
Bean did post career highs in blocked shots, hits, and takeaways with 71, 41, and 21 respectively, but a lot of that can be explained by his increased minutes. He would often get outmuscled and beat on the boards. Also, if you look at some of the more advanced metrics such as his Corsi For % (48.6), which shows how often his team controlled the puck while he was on the ice, or his goals against per 60 minutes (3.2), it starts to become clear that he has some work to do in becoming a better defender.
Not all of the struggles can be laid at Bean's feet as he did play on a defensive unit that had quite a few holes. However, in year two with the Blue Jackets, he will most certainly be looking to become a more well-rounded defender, known for making stops when necessary.