NATHAN BEHM MAKING AN IMPACT
By Marty Hastings
The Kamloops Blazers traded up to snag Nathan Behm at 13th overall in the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft.
Behm, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound forward from Calgary, is making that decision look savvy in his 16-year-old campaign, with 10 goals and 24 points in 46 games — and two moments of brilliance last weekend.
“I think there was about 10 seconds left and there was kind of a scrum on the wall and their defender kind of came up a little bit,” said Behm, recalling his overtime heroics against the hometown Kelowna Rockets on Friday, Jan. 26.
“I think he might have been cheating a little bit because there was only like five seconds left. [Blazers’ defenceman Logan] Bairos made a great pass. I got behind him, quick backhand and it’s nice to get the win.”
Behm’s stick tap to Bairos is warranted — the captain’s saucer pass was a dandy and helped secure the 4-3 victory — but there was work to be done and the rookie’s transition to the backhand and game-winning finish are indicators of confidence, said Blazers’ forwards development coach Chris Murray.
“He doesn’t say a lot, but he’s definitely got some inner confidence in his game and he’s pretty even-keeled,” Murray said. “When you get more confidence, you’ll hang on to pucks longer, you’ll battle through longer to keep the puck and maintain possession and you’ll try to beat defenders — and only at the right times.”
Josh Kelly can attest to Behm’s willingness to wait and the Blazers’ 17-year-old forward from Port Moody showed patience of his own this season.
The left-shot rookie had a goose egg in the goal column after 35 games when he spoke last week to blazerhockey.com.
“I’m excited for it,” Kelly said. “I know it will come. I’m not trying to force things. When it comes, it comes.”
It came when Kamloops played host to the rematch against Kelowna on Saturday, Jan. 27, at Sandman Centre — thanks in part to puck-carrying composure from Behm.
“I kind of just picked up a rim and saw their D were kind of backed off, so I skated around the zone, made a couple fakes and he [Kelly] had good net-front position,” Behm said. “His stick was on the ice and I saw him. It was nice to celebrate his first goal with him.”
Added Kelly: “It was a relief to finally get it, but a great play by him. I called my mom and told her. She was excited. Just a good play from Nathan, a good pass.”
The Blazers knocked off the Rockets 3-2 to snare their third consecutive victory and fourth win in five games.
“Just like Nathan, our whole team has been in the same boat,” Murray said. “We stuck with it. Now we’re putting some wins together. To embrace the structure and show how we want to play as a team, we’re really pleased with how the guys have been the last few weeks, battling and competing.”
Murray said Behm’s game suffered from “loopy habits” earlier in the season, specifically a tendency to turn his back on the puck.
“It’s not uncommon for younger players, especially skilled ones,” Murray said. “That’s something he had to work on. He’s really come along.”
There is room for improvement during the stretch drive. Natural physical attributes are among Behm’s tool kit and Murray is encouraging the fledgling forward to use them more often.
“Just to be consistently more physical because he is a big kid,” Murray said. “Not to be running around hitting everybody, but to win puck battles. And staying at the net, stopping at the net. He’ll score a lot of goals around there.”
Behm, who has been slotting in at left wing on the second and third lines, will continue pushing to be a fixture among the top six when the Blazers (13-28-3-2) host the Wenatchee Wild (27-16-4-0) on Friday, Feb. 2.
Game time is slated for 7 p.m. at Sandman Centre.
“I think I can be one of the top players and be an impact player every game, helping the team win and just doing my best,” Behm said.
“I’ve been feeling pretty confident. Once you kind of get going, you’re not afraid to make plays and you just want to be yourself and, fortunately, I’ve been getting some good bounces recently.”