ST. PAUL – “In this league, you can never have too many good defensemen.”
Those were the words of Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier after nabbing a defenseman in the first round for the fourth time in six years. As promised, Gauthier stuck with his “best player available” policy and jumped at the chance to snag Saint John Sea Dog Nathan Beaulieu
when the All-Star blue-liner was still in the stands when No. 17 came around.
“I slipped a little bit but we saw that last year, too. I don’t mind slipping when I end up in an organization like this,” shared Beaulieu, who was ranked fifth among all North American skaters heading into the Draft. “I couldn’t be happier right now and I can’t wait to get going. It’s been such a rollercoaster ride these past few months – you’ve been working for this for 18 years. I’m very happy with where I ended up and I can’t say enough great things about this organization.”
In 65 regular season games in 2010-11, Beaulieu led all Sea Dogs defensemen with 12 goals and 45 points and finished with a franchise record plus-44 differential. The shifty defenseman also added 17 points in 19 playoff games to help lead the Sea Dogs to a Memorial Cup championship this May.
“He’s a player who plays very well under pressure,” confirmed Gauthier. “He won the Memorial Cup and he was an All-Star at the Memorial Cup tournament. It’s a very encouraging pick. We knew that at 17 there was going to be somebody very good left. This was the kind of draft where after seven or eight guys, there was still a whole long list of players who were very, very strong. We didn’t know which player it was going to be, but we’re very happy it was Mr. Beaulieu.”
Known as a mobile, puck-moving defenseman, Beaulieu has already drawn comparisons from some analysts to another impressive blue-liner in the Canadiens organization.
“He’s one of those free-wheeling guys who wants to take charge of the game so he reminds us of PK Subban in that sense,” described Gauthier.
So what does the 18-year-old defenseman think of being compared to Subban, who was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team this week?
“It’s exceptional – PK could have won rookie of the year, that’s how good he is,” marvelled Beaulieu, who was officially welcomed to Habsland by Subban himself via Twitter on Friday night. “He’s had so much success already in Montreal. That’s definitely a guy I’d like to follow in his footsteps and hopefully make the jump like he did.”
Growing up in Strathroy, ON, Beaulieu didn’t exactly grow up rooting for the Canadiens – not that his father Jacques didn’t try his best to school his son in the ways of the bleu-blanc-rouge
“My dad is from Northern Ontario and his first language is French. He bought me a jersey when I was a kid. He’s a French Canadian and he grew up a Montreal Canadiens fan so I’m sure he’s really happy right now, but not as happy as I am,” offered Beaulieu with a grin. “I guess I have to start learning French – I definitely want to take steps to learn that playing in the Quebec league.”
Whether the 6-foot-3 defenseman will get to start putting his language skills to the test in Montreal next season remains to be seen, but Beaulieu plans on heading into training camp to do exactly that.
“My goal is to make the Montreal Canadiens – you’ve got to shoot for the stars,” he explained. “I’ve been drafted and now going into camp, I have high expectations. My goal is to make that hockey club and if not, I’m going to go back to Saint John and prepare for another good season there.” Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com. SEE ALSO:Comments: Beaulieu
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