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Beauvillier Taking A Shot At The Big Time

2015 first-round pick is in the hunt for a spot on the Islanders

by Cory Wright WrightsWay / New York Islanders

Anthony Beauvillier has all the high-end skill of a top prospect, but it's the unsexy plays that are getting him noticed at New York Islanders training camp. 

Plays like his awareness to cover an open Robin Kovacs and break up his scoring chance in the slot in Tuesday's 3-2 OT win over the New York Rangers, or hustling back to intercept a pass in the neutral zone against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at Prudential Center. 

He's earned heavy praise from the coaching staff and, as a result, is still with the Islanders despite a series of cuts on Thursday afternoon. 

"He's in the mix," head coach Jack Capuano said on Tuesday. "He's one of the guys that has emerged. I put him at center, I put him at left wing, I put him at right wing, I put him in all situations and he does things the right way and that's what we're looking for." 

What Capuano's looking for from all his players, but especially the younger ones, is their play away from the puck. If either Beauvillier or fellow 2015 first-rounder Mathew Barzal can crack the Islanders roster, they won't be getting a top-six role, so the coach wants to see a demonstrated ability to defend. He's used Beauvillier heavily on the PK and has been impressed with what he's seen. 

"From Day 1, you can just tell he takes pride in his ability away from the puck," Capuano said. "But at the same time he has great offensive instincts on the power play and in the 3-on-3 in overtime. He's going about his business, he's doing the right things and he's going to get an opportunity here as we move forward."

Beauvillier scored the game-winner in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Devils, showing off his offensive capabilities. The 19-year-old is a talented scorer at the junior level, racking up 79 points (40G, 39A) in 47 games with the Shawinigan Cataractes last season in the Quebec League and 94 points (42G, 52A) the year before. He also captained the Cataractes all the way to the league final last season, scoring 30 points (15G, 15A) in 21 games. 

"Camp's been great. I've played five good games since I've been here," Beauvillier said on Wednesday, which he thought was the worst of his five games. "I've worked hard and did what the coaches asked me to do, so I'm pretty happy about my camp so far."

The coaching staff is impressed with Beauvillier's hockey sense on the ice, saying he thinks the game as good as anyone in camp. He anticipates plays, spots open ice and open players and has an engine seemingly without an off-switch. 

"I see Casey Cizikas in Beau," Capuano said. "He has a tremendous work ethic and a great hockey IQ and doesn't shy away from any of the physical battles and the physicality of the game."

Despite the high praise, a crowded camp means Beauvillier still has some work to do to crack the Islanders roster. At 19, he's too young to play in the American Hockey League, so it's either Islanders or Shawinigan. If the Islanders want to keep him around for a taste of NHL action, they can keep him for nine games before the first year of his contract is activated. If he plays 10, then it will count as a full year of his entry-level deal, even if the Islanders were to send him back to junior. 

"There are some spots that could be had here," Capuano said. "I think [the QMJHL] is a structured league and there are good coaches. If a guy has to go back I always look at the tier system of where guys need to be. If he's not ready, you don't want to rush him into a situation. We have an opportunity with a few guys and we may utilize for nine games, but those are decisions we're going to have to make."

Beauvillier is certainly making those decisions hard, one stick-check at a time.

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