Every week of the 2018-19 season, our Rob Taub will discuss one player from the Islanders to look out for. Whether it’s past performances, certain matchups, or something about that player that makes worth spotlighting, each article will describe why they are being featured. Also — if one or two players, or the team is coming off a good week — there will be multiple spotlights.
Through the first two weeks of the season, there’s been some surprises among the group of Islanders forwards.
One of them, offseason addition Valtteri Filppula, has three points through the first four games. Oddly enough, Filppula was brought in as a spare part by g.m. Lou Lamoriello to add more veteran leadership/penalty killing than offensive production. Take nothing away from Filppula, but Anthony Beauvillier is supposed to be one of those vital forwards to drive the offense.
Beauvillier, after a scorching second half last season and impressive showing in the preseason, is pointless through four games.
The 21-year old — who developed wicked chemistry with star center Mathew Barzal and veteran Jordan Eberle the season prior — has yet to find his legs in the early going. Beauvillier has only 12 shot attempts through four contests. He’s averaging 15:30 of ice time playing on the first line with Barzal and Josh Bailey. Now could Beauvillier’s slow start be affected by trying to find flow with Bailey — who he played with minimally last season? Maybe. But after this past Saturday’s game in Nashville, where he was moved down to the third line, head coach Barry Trotz seemed to notice out what was ailing his left winger.
“He’s a young guy, he’s trying to force things,” Trotz expressed to Newsday’s Andrew Gross. “He’s gripping it a little bit tight. I talked to him the last couple of days, just try to relax, it’s going to come.”
The youngster himself also acknowledged he’s got to get back to playing his game.
“I’ve just got to get back to my identity and play the way I should be playing,” Beauvillier told Newsday on Sunday after the Islanders practiced in Anaheim. “It doesn’t matter what line I’m on. I’ve just got to get back to basics.” Beauvillier was a -1 in the loss to Nashville and registered just one shot on goal in 14 minutes of action.
Beauvillier got off to a rough start last season too. He was scratched in Los Angeles to end a California trip and recorded just two points in his first seven games. By the start of the new year, Beauvillier had just seven points in 31 games. Things got so concerning for Beauvillier — although it was a mandated NHL five-day break — that the Islanders sent him back down to AHL Bridgeport on January 1st. Once he returned six days later, Beauvillier looked like he regained his confidence. With that confidence, Beauvillier became the Isles best forward the rest of the year — he tallied 17 goals and eight assists. He would finish the season with 21 goals and 36 points.
With that torrid end to the season, Beauvillier officially immersed himself as one of the bright spots in what became a lost season. His numbers and overall performance painted a pretty bright picture of what the Isles future might look like going forward. Some of that future took a bit of a hit when John Tavares left for Toronto. But for Beauvillier’s cause, Tavares’ departure would open up an even bigger opportunity for himself and others to become major contributors offensively.
The Islanders are expecting big things from Beauvillier. Trotz has pointed out multiple times since he arrived back in June that Beauvillier is a top-six forward and one of his club’s best players.
Granted it’s very early, and yes the Islanders are adjusting to a new system, Beauvillier included; But it can get late pretty quick. That’s something that Beauvillier, the coaches, and the brass can’t have happen if the team wants to be competitive the rest of the year.
Maybe the demotion down to the third line sparks Beauvillier to finally turn his game on. Maybe settling down and not trying to do as much gets Beauvillier going. Maybe getting to play more than once every four days wakes him up. Whatever lights the fire under Beauvillier to play that same way he did in the preseason and the final 41 games from a year ago, it will make the Islanders a harder team to play against. That’s the mantra that has been preached by Lamoriello and the coaching staff.
With three games left on this four-game swing, it would be the perfect time for Beauvillier to get some points and kick start his season.
Seeing some power play time on the second unit could also be beneficial. The Isles are more skill first on the first unit and more shoot heavy on the second unit. Putting Beauvillier in that second group — and letting him control the puck like Barzal does on PP1 — could allow for more space and opportunities for Brock Nelson and the Ryan Pulock’s and Johnny Boychuk’s of the world.
I wrote before the season that he looked primed to have a monster year. Hopefully these first few games are an aberration because Beauvillier is an integral part of this Isles forward group and core.
Things change in hockey in the blink of an eye. For Beauvillier, hopefully that change comes sooner rather than later.
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