After handing out the top goaltending honors yesterday, the AHL continued today by announcing the top defenseman. The Eddie Shore Award has been given to Jake Bean of the Charlotte Checkers after a vote from coaches, players and media members around the league.
Bean, 21, isn’t just another AHL defenseman. Drafted 13th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016 he is still one of the top defensive prospects in the game, even if it has taken him a few years to reach the NHL. 2019-20 served as his second full season in the AHL and after making the All-Rookie Team and winning a Calder Cup championship in his first, it was hard to believe he could take another step forward.
A step forward he did take however, scoring 48 points in 59 games with the Checkers and landing a spot on the league’s First All-Star Team. The defenseman of the year award is just a cherry on top of an outstanding season, one that should probably be Bean’s last in the AHL.
Still under his entry-level contract in 2020-21, Bean represents an inexpensive option for the Hurricanes if they decide to shed some salary from the back end. After acquiring Brady Skjei midseason it may be difficult to keep around others like Joel Edmundson and Trevor van Riemsdyk—who are both scheduled for unrestricted free agency—meaning there could be an additional opportunity in the NHL.
That’s not guaranteed however, as Carolina still has Skjei, Jaccob Slavin, Jake Gardiner, Brett Pesce and Dougie Hamilton penciled into full-time roles for the time being. Haydn Fleury is also still around, though he needs a new contract as an RFA. The Hurricanes may be the most difficult blueline in the league to crack for a young player, but at this point it’s hard to argue Bean could have done anything more to prove he is ready for the next level.