The concept of taking the best player available in the NHL Draft is an idea that has aided the Devils in gathering an enviable group of young defenders that should be the foundation of a strong blue line for years to come. That very notion however should be tossed clear out the window in the 2015 Draft; the Devils need to shore up a week, aging front line and who better to help them than offensive-minded Anthony Beauvillier?
Who is Anthony Beauvillier?
Beauvillier was born June 8, 1997 in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, Canada. He was the first round pick (#2 overall) of the Shawinigan Cataractes in the 2013 QMJHL Draft; they must have known they were on to something. His 2013-14 season with the Cataractes was not impressive, but he broke out in a big way as the QMJHL's 8th leading scorer this past season. Here's a look at his stats, courtesy of Elite Prospects:
Beauvillier showed nice improvement from his 16-year old season to his 17-year old season; he jumped from 9 goals and 33 points in 64 games to 42 goals and 94 points in 67 games. Unless he somehow miraculously scored 61 points over those 3 extra games that he didn't play in his first season with Shawinigan, he showed a good amount of improvement in one year. I also like that he was a point per game player in the playoffs for the Cataractes this past season; it shows his success in the regular season can translate to the postseason as well.
What Others Have Said About Beauvillier
Curtis Joe over at Elite Prospects had mostly good things to say about Beauvillier in terms of both his offensive skill, and creativity when he's on the ice:
A dynamic scoring center with good hockey sense. Not very large in stature, but makes up for it in speed, skill, and cunning. A talented puck-handler with good hands: is equally efficient a passer as he is a goal scorer. All-in-all, an offensively minded center that can outplay the opposition in a number of different ways. Needs to work on discipline and getting stronger. (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)
The words "offensively minded center" stand out from this blurb; the Devils have spent the last few drafts building up the defense, and now it's time to beef up the front lines. Anthony Beauvillier is exactly what New Jersey needs in their current situation. While there are a couple of drawbacks at the end of this scouting report (discipline, getting stronger) I don't think they'd be a problem. Playing Devils Hockey is the perfect way to learn discipline; as for his size, according to his QMJHL player page (5'10", 181) he's already bigger than Stephen Gionta and will surely add more muscle as he continues to develop.
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News had a nice write-up from just before the CHL Top Prospects speaking highly of the leadership qualities that Anthony can bring to a team.
Anthony Beauvillier won't be vying for first overall this summer, but as a tenacious player known for his leadership, he's not a bad choice at all.
"He definitely leads by example," said Dan Marr, head of the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau. "There's an infectious attitude in the way he plays. He's similar to Robby Fabbri last year where he's really relentless on the puck, relentless on the play. He doesn't quit."
The first part is simply stating the obvious given the players that are vying for that first overall spot; the latter portion speaks volumes of the type of player that Anthony is. He's described as being relentless; he's someone who is going to give his best effort without taking a shift off. Every team in the NHL would love to have a guy who leaves it all on the ice game after game. The same article continues by discussing his stature:
"If this kid is six-foot, he's a first-rounder," said one NHL scout. "So much drive, plays with such high pace and he has a really good skill set. If someone is going to draft a 5-foot-10 kid early, he's the guy."
Size is a premium in today's NHL and while 181 pounds is good size for a 17 year old (who is obviously still growing), many teams also covet height. While he may be a few inches shorter than what most scouts are desiring, there are plenty of NHL players standing at 5'10" who excel at the game.
Bill Placzek over at DraftSite.com had a similar take on Beauvillier's game, while anticipating that Columbus would take him two spots before the Devils with the 34th overall pick:
Slippery undersized left winger from the Q who compact stride give him short areas rocket bursts in the attack zone. Plays with intensity and sneaks into the open spot to receive passes. Not the best shortest player on the puck when he carries for long periods.
I'm not sure which minor concern I have after visiting this site is more alarming: the fact that he needs to improve his puck carrying or the fact that he's listed at a different weight on literally every site I look at. This scouting report reaffirms his scoring, speed, skill and craftiness; it also reinforces his intensity playing the game. The puck carrying concerns me a bit only because the Devils have been a team that based their play around possession for so long; that may change with new personnel and new staff coming in this season, so it may wind up being a moot point in the end. It is also something that can be working on through coaching at this point as he is still young and learning parts of the game.
Beauvillier was also strongly praised by Scott Wheeler of McKeen's Hockey, who took a good look at his points per game compared to the first two QMJHL draftees from last year:
Beauvillier's 1.48 points per game ranks him between the first two drafted QMJHL prospects in 2014 in their draft year's.
Beauvillier uses strong puck-handling skills and a strong, low centre of gravity stride to beat his opponents, either coming off the left wing or down the middle.
I liked this piece of the article because it mentions his skating stride, and if he's using it to beat his opponents, then it means he's a pretty good skater. One of the major things the Devils were criticized for this year was being a slow team; Beauvilier's speed and skating ability would be useful in helping start the offensive engine.
A Little Video
Our first video is a video profile of Beauvillier which also includes a small interview with his coach Martin Bernard:
Next we have a good video of some different scoring highlights featuring Beauvillier; at around the 0:38 mark, he shows that he appears to be good in shootouts. If he's available at #36, New Jersey should pick him up for that reason alone.
In addition, Beauvillier does not seem to shy away from physicality; normally teams don't like their scorers getting into fights, but when they're standing up for a teammate, it's usually met with positive feedback. The quality is a bit low in this one, so I should point out that Anthony is the fighter in the yellow jersey:
Anthony is no goon, as he isn't starting a fight just for the sake of it; he's simply leading by example and standing up for a teammate on a play where he took a rough hit from a member of the opposing team. Teams can never have enough players with good leadership qualities, so this intangible would be beneficial to New Jersey.
An Opinion of Sorts
All jokes about varying weight reports and our team stinking in the shootout aside, I would be extremely happy to hear the Devils pick up Beauvillier on draft day; while he more than likely will need some more time in juniors/the minors to develop, he helps fill an immediate need for offensive talent on this team. Both Lou Lamoriello and Ray Shero have said in recent interviews that the Devils need a change up front (not necessarily in those words) and skill sets aside, youth would be a nice change from some of the veterans (and traffic cones) we were trotting out on the ice last season. Beauvillier probably wouldn't make the NHL team right away as I stated a moment ago, but stranger things have happened with late-1st Round and 2nd Round picks for this team.
His size and puck carrying abilities seem to be the only negatives that are brought up about his game. Obviously he is still young and growing into his frame, so he will gain more muscle mass and become a stronger player. Height is one thing that can't be changed, yet standing at 5'10" isn't going to wind up being the deciding factor in whether Beauvillier becomes an NHL regular or not. He may need to work on his puck carrying/maintaining skills, but there are players on the current Devils roster that the same could be said of; again he's still young and developing, and a little more muscle on his frame might help him in terms of carrying the puck for an extended period of time. If it isn't a strength issue, you can bet your bottom dollar the Devils staff would help him to improve upon this deficiency in his game.
If Beauvillier is available at the start of Round 2, I would not be opposed to the Devils parting with a small asset in addition to #36 (or #41) in an attempt to trade up to snare him; Anthony seems to have a "shoot first" mentality and that is sorely lacking in New Jersey right now. If a team that drafts only a spot or two before us drafts him, New Jersey will still have some good options on the table, but I do believe that Beauvillier's skill set and leadership qualities would make him in excellent fit in the red and black.
Now that we've spent some time getting to know him, what are your thoughts on Anthony Beauvillier? Do you think he is the type of forward the Devils need to draft? Could the Devils draft him simply because they need all the forward prospects they can get? Should the Devils upgrade one of their second round picks to get him if he is still available? Leave any and all comments below, and as always thanks for reading!