In overtime of Game 6 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal, New York Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier gave the team its most iconic goal of the season and one of the most iconic in the Barry Trotz era. He stole the puck in the offensive zone and fired a quick shot past Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy for the game-winning overtime goal. While the Islanders lost the series in seven games, the goal closed out the Nassau Coliseum in style.
Beauvillier scored 15 goals and 13 assists in the 2020-21 season while also adding five goals and eight assists in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The expectation was for the 24-year-old forward to take a big step forward for the Islanders this season and become a crucial part of the forward unit. Instead, he took a big step back and is having a season to forget.
This season, Beauvillier has only scored 12 goals and 21 assists despite averaging 16:49 of ice time. Moreover, the young forward has been a non-factor in the Islanders’ offense making it easy to question why he has struggled to this degree and what his future will look like with the team.
Playing a Minor Role Alongside Nelson & Lee
The duo of Brock Nelson and Anders Lee has taken off this season and helped the Islanders’ offense rebound in the season half of the season. The two veterans have played on the same line and with complimenting skillsets, have given the Islanders a potent top unit. They have combined for 60 goals and 39 assists this season and both skaters are having remarkable seasons in an otherwise struggling Islanders offense.
The problem for Beauvillier is that the duo doesn’t allow the young forward to find a rhythm in the offense. Lee is a natural and instinctive finisher who throughout this season has improved dramatically as a skater, recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered causing him to miss the second half of last season. Nelson, meanwhile, is a playmaker in the offensive zone that will shoot the puck if need be but also find the open skater near the net or the slot which is oftentimes Lee. This leaves Beauvillier in a difficult role as he is struggling to find open ice in the offensive zone and find shooting lanes.
In previous seasons, Beauvillier notably benefitted from playing alongside Nelson, but also from playing on the same line as Josh Bailey. While Bailey isn’t a goal-scorer, the veteran is a natural puck distributor and would allow Beauvillier to find open shots on the opposite wing. The line changes helped the offense altogether but one of the forwards that suffered as a side effect was their 24-year-old rising star.
Ideally, the Islanders would move Beauvillier to another forward line, matching his skillset with Mathew Barzal or Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The problem is that he has struggled to play alongside other forwards as well. The 24-year-old has looked out of place throughout the season. Oddly enough, the unit he looks the most comfortable on is the power-play unit, scoring five goals this season on the man advantage, which is third-most on the Islanders.
Beauvillier Hasn’t Found His Shot
Halfway through the season, Kyle Palmieri started to turn a corner and find the back of the net. The noticeable change in his play was his willingness to shoot the puck on the goal. As a result, the 31-year-old forward has scored 14 goals on the season, 13 of which were after the All-Star break.
Beauvillier has struggled throughout the season to generate shots on the net, causing a decline in offensive production. However, he is also struggling to find open shots and areas in the offensive zone where he can collect the puck and find the back of the net.
Beauvillier ultimately has struggled throughout the season to find his spots in the offensive zone to impact the offense. Moreover, when he has the puck, there isn’t the same confidence that he had in previous seasons both as a distributor and a shooter. The young forward doesn’t have a clear direction when he has the puck and oftentimes, his head is spinning.
Beauvillier is still a great skater and puck handler, allowing him to effectively carry the puck into the offensive zone. However, he isn’t a natural puck distributor and even when he has the puck, can’t create scoring chances himself. He has benefitted from open shots and open ice throughout his career and in a season where he needed to adapt, he has struggled.
What’s Next For Beauvillier?
There’s a strong possibility that Beauvillier is traded in the offseason. The young forward can be a promising piece for plenty of NHL rosters and the Islanders will add him into a blockbuster deal if they hope to acquire a talented player like Jakob Chychrun or Patrick Kane. Beauvillier has been a staple of the forward unit in recent seasons, but looking ahead to the offseason, he has suddenly become expendable.
However, the more likely avenue for the Islanders and Beauvillier is that he remains with the team. He has proven throughout his six seasons that he has the talent to be a forward on one of the top two lines and can easily return to form next season. Recently, he has snapped out of his nine-game scoring slump, finding the back of the net in a 4-2 loss to the Maple Leafs, a hopeful sign of what the team can see more often next season. The young forward had a season to forget along with multiple players on the Islanders roster, but the expectation is that the team will bounce back along with him in 2022-23.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.