As the New York Islanders’ grim season slowly comes to a close, it’s easy to view it as a complete lost cause. However, despite their struggles, which includes giving up a historic amount of shots against, there have been beams of light seen from the end of the tunnel.
One of those beams is Anthony Beauvillier.
Amidst all of the rubble, the soon to be 21-year-old forward has come into his own this season for the club. Despite being thrown around in the lineup in a multitude of positions and roles, Beauvillier has managed to continually excel and roll with the hand he was dealt.
Beauvillier Building Consistency from the Start
Drafted 28th overall in 2015, Beauvillier seemed to be a reach pick at the time. As an undersized forward, he, like all players similar to him in the past, was given limited chance to succeed. With his determination and endless motor, though, Beauvillier has come to prove the doubters wrong.
After scoring 40 goals in 47 games and lighting up the QMJHL in his third year with the Shawinigan Cataractes, he cracked the Islanders roster for opening night. Mathew Barzal, taken by the Islanders 12 picks before Beauvillier, also made the team. While Barzal initially had difficulty adjusting his high-end skill game to the NHL level, Beauvillier used his tenacity to seem all over the ice at once.
Beauvillier would go on to edge out Barzal, who went back to the Seattle Thunderbirds, and stayed with the team for the remainder of the season. Nevertheless, the ship was far from smooth sailing for Beauvillier.
As the year wore on, he was scratched multiple times due to various reasons, most often inconsistency. The main contributor to that, though, could have been the constant shuffling of lines, which was a trademark of former head coach Jack Capuano. Beauvillier’s versatility made him easy to shift around the lineup, but in the end, it hurt his play and his ability to mesh with his linemates.
Beauvillier would go on to finish the 2016-17 season with nine goals and 24 points in 66 games.
Taking Advantage of the Opportunities
The current season started poorly yet again for the young center, and it even resulted in a three-game AHL stint to help him re-find his game. Following his recall, however, and a convenient Andrew Ladd injury, Beauvillier has transformed into a completely new player.
While Ladd was sidelined with an upper-body injury, Beauvillier slid up to the second line left wing spot alongside Barzal and Jordan Eberle. The three clicked instantly, and have arguably been the team’s best line in the second half of the season. That is a tall order when your top line consists of John Tavares and Josh Bailey, two point-per-game players, and Anders Lee, a 40 goal scorer.
Beauvillier’s renaissance has come on the basis of being able to play the game that he wants to play. Being with Barzal and Eberle on a nightly basis allows him to get into a rhythm, which allows him to be light-years more effective than he was while bouncing around the bottom-six group.
Beauvillier is able to use his speed and forechecking skills to open up room for his linemates. This becomes a dangerous proposition for any opponent, given how good Barzal and Eberle are at creating their own space in the first place.
The chemistry of the line likely comes from comfortability, especially between Beauvillier and Barzal. The two have been teammates and friends before, dating well back into their early teen years. The elite circles of Hockey Canada run small, and the Islanders are fortunate enough to be reaping some of the benefits of that.
Beauvillier’s Role Moving Forward
Given the extra ice-time and opportunity, Beauvillier has seen a stark increase in almost all areas of his game. The most noticeable is his goal total, increasing to 19 in just over the same amount of games as the prior season. Per 60 minutes of ice time, he is averaging 1.2 goals, according to Hockey Reference. Further, he is attempting more shots, and has six more takeaways than giveaways, rather than having 13 more giveaways than takeaways as he did last season.
Had he not been buried for the early months of the season, there is a high probability that these statistics would be even more impressive and positively arced.
Beauvillier’s analytics have also strayed in the right direction as well, most notably his Corsi For Percentage (CF%), which has gone up 2.8% from last season. His center from the beginning of the year, Brock Nelson, sits at 47.5%, which could have hurt Beauvillier in the long run.
Finally, another positive development in Beauvillier’s game is his special teams play. He has seen routine minutes in the three penalty kill groups, and has gotten deployment on the second power play unit from time to time. He is becoming a jack-of-all-trades, and a player similar, or so the Islanders can hope, to someone like Brendan Gallagher.
When it is all said and done, the 2017-18 campaign was an utter disaster for the New York Islanders. If they can take one thing away from it, though, it should be that their young players need to play, and that fact is none more evident than with Beauvillier.
If John Tavares decides to walk in free agency this summer, the team becomes Barzal’s, and subsequently it will be Anthony Beauvillier that moves up alongside. He has a huge role to play in the years to come, and this season will prove immensely important in his development and determination of his role moving ahead.