As the hockey season draws near, there are many questions that will face the 2017-18 version of the New York Islanders. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the expectations are still high for the Isles. With an entirely new coaching staff and new blood ready to make an impact, this season could be something special, or the final chapter before major changes is made. Over the next 30 days, our Rob Taub will give his thoughts on what to look for from the blue and orange this season.
When training camp begin a year ago, no one in their right mind could have predicted that prospect Anthony Beauviller would make the team.
But, that’s exactly what the 19-year old did. After opening eyes in training camp and the preseason, Beauvillier and fellow rookie Mathew Barzal made the opening night roster. And to make things even better, Beauvillier was chosen over Barzal to play opening night. He even recorded his first NHL point that night with an assist.
Beauvillier quickly asserted himself in to the minds of fans when he recorded four points in the first five games he played. After that spurt, Beauvillier went through a slump, only registering two points in 13 games. During the middle months of the season and in to the New Year, Beauvillier struggled to find his niche. He found himself in the press box until Doug Weight replaced Jack Capuano as interim head coach in mid-January.
When Doug Weight took over, Beauvillier found new life in his game. Beauviller was now not being held back and given more playing time and responsibility from Weight. The Sorel-Tracy native was now flipping between his natural position as a center, and on the wing. Beauvillier was beginning to find chemistry with a few of his teammates, and started to produce at a solid rate. When the team was struck by injuries, it was Beauviller who stepped up. He was given the trust of the coaching staff late in games, and was given a spot on the penalty kill, which he ran with.
He and fellow rookie, Josh Ho-Sang showed excellent chemistry late in the season, making them a dynamic duo of sorts. When the season ended, Beauvillier totaled 24 points in 66 games. But there were many who believed Beauvillier’s strong end to the year was a sign of big things to come for him.
Now with a year of experience under his belt, Beauvillier is once again on the outside looking in with something to prove.
Beauvillier was the one that jumped the rank of the other prospects in camp last year, but it seems now that his counterpart who he battled last year, Mathew Barzal has the upper hand to start over Beauvillier. And technically that’s not a bad thing. The Islanders are so deep down the middle, that it could be a blessing in disguise for Beauvillier that he doesn’t play center every night. He showed the ability to play the wing last year, and showed that his skill and tenacity meshes well in to the offense. Beau’s speed and feistiness are two elements that can be utilized on the third line as well. The style of play Beau has can also help on special teams.
Doug Weight has already said he’s not afraid to sit the veterans for the kids if they aren’t playing well.
As the team transitions to a younger forward core, this kind of notion bodes well for Beauvillier. Even if he finds himself in a 13th forward role, Beauvillier will have that extra incentive to push him to become a full-time regular. Furthermore, Weight’s comments can affect Beau because if guys like Nikolay Kulemin and Jason Chimera struggle, he will be the next man up. I also think while probably Barzal and Ho-Sang get more of the spotlight this year, Beauviller could feel less pressure to try to do more than asked from him. That was the case more than a few times last season.
The New York Islanders are banking on their young players to lead the way this season, and help establish themselves as a contender. Anthony Beauviller is expected to be one of those players that leads the charge. How he fits in the Isles lineup this season will say a lot about him and the team going forward.
Prediction: Beauvillier plays wing on the third line, subs in at center on occasion.