Kyle Beach's omission from the "black aces" this postseason stood out. It could be said that by not recalling the power forward after doing so a year earlier, the Blackhawks were sending the former 11th overall pick a message.
So are the Hawks happy with the progress the temperamental Beach made in his first full year with the Rockford IceHogs?
"I think we are pleased with the way Kyle is coming along," Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a conference call Wednesday.
But then, Bowman sort of shifted gears.
"In some ways, it's an adjustment period coming from the junior game to the pro game," he said. "Obviously, Kyle was a prolific goal scorer in junior. That's a talent he certainly has. We're trying to get him to focus on rounding out his game, learning different things this year which would fit into what we're looking for. He did that. It's a progression for Kyle. It's not something that happens over night."
The Hawks could use a player that Beach is billed as being. He's got toughness and size. He's got a mean streak the Hawks brass loves and even a scoring touch.
Still, in terms of the pecking order that is the Hawks depth chart, he's fallen behind. Other forwards like Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri and even Kevin Hayes have moved ahead of him.
Although they play a different position than Beach, Bowman mentioned Kruger, Pirri and Hayes as the top three centers in the Hawks organization.
"There's a number of players we're very high on in terms of their projection over time, but they're coming into different stages," Bowman said. "Brandon Pirri is probably the closet in our group, and Marcus Kruger, he obviously came in and played in the playoffs last year. I would expect him to be a contributor on the Blackhawks next year.
"Brandon had an excellent ending to his season. At least in Rockford, he really came on. He's still a kid. He would be going into his junior year of college if he stayed in school. Kevin Hayes is a player who is going to end up being a centerman. He can play a bit of wing and center. He was our top pick last year. There's other players as well, but those three guys are going to figure in our future for sure."
So what does this mean for Beach?
It looks he's going to have to bide his time in the AHL, much like Jack Skille had to do before last season. Beach had 16 goals, 36 points, 163 penalty minutes and a minus-24 rating in 71 games with Rockford last season after scoring 52 goals a year earlier in the Western Hockey League.
"He's certainly always going to be a goal scorer, because he's got that ability," Bowman said. "But he may not break into the league as a goal scorer playing on a top line. Sometimes these guys work their way around a lineup over a couple years and that's what we're trying to get from him -- to be able to contribute in different ways other than just scoring goals.
"He's a hard guy to play against. He's got that sandpaper to his game that irritates the opponent. He's got good size and strength. He can play a lot of different ways. It was an adjustment period to the pro game for him. We're looking for him to continue to improve that way because I think goal-scoring is always going to be there for him."