In praise of Matt Beleskey

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The list of the NHL’s top-10 goalscorers is filled with familiar names — Tyler Seguin, Steve Stamkos, Corey Perry, Alex Ovechkin — but there’s a new one in the mix, highlighted here:

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That’s 26-year-old Anaheim winger Matt Beleskey, a career checking forward that’s never scored more than 11 goals in an single NHL season. Yet there he is, looking down the goalscoring chart at Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel after the quarter mark, on pace for a 38-goal campaign.

Last night, his 12th goal of the year was the game-winner in a 3-2 win over Boston and his second GWG of the season. Which begs the question: How is this happening?

Simply put, Beleskey was gifted an opportunity this year and ran with it. Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau came into ’14-15 looking for winger to play on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and, after the Dany Heatley experiment failed before it ever really started, Beleskey got his shot.

“It’s awesome,” Beleskey said, per the O.C. Register. “[Boudreau’s] been giving me confidence and has had confidence in me all year. It’s been nice.”

The relationship with Boudreau has been key to Beleskey’s breakout campaign. Boudreau recognized Beleskey’s versatility two seasons ago and expanded his responsibilities in an opening-round playoff loss to Detroit, and Beleskey responded by scoring two goals and three points in seven games.

The former fourth-round pick again showed his ability to raise his game in the postseason last year, scoring two goals and four points in five games (despite missing extensive time with a lower-body ailment.)

“Hockey’s a big confidence game,” Beleskey said upon signing a two-year extension last summer, per the Register. “For a little bit, I kind of lost that scoring touch. It all comes with opportunity. Bruce has put me in different situations and got me some more opportunities.

“Taking advantage of it is a big part.”

The Ducks are glad he’s found that confidence and is taking advantage of his chance. Anaheim’s had issues this season with secondary scoring; the Getzlaf-Perry-Beleskey line has combined to score 33 of 57 goals tallied by forwards this season. The likes of Emerson Etem (two goals), Jakob Silfverberg (one) and Rickard Rakell (zero) have given the Ducks virtually nothing in terms of goalscoring this season, which makes Beleskey’s contributions all the more vital.

That’s why Boudreau has a message for Beleskey: Keep shooting.

“You shoot the puck enough with a good shot, and good things are going to happen,” Boudreau said. “[Beleskey’s] feeling like he can score.”