Anthony Beauvillier was the smallest player on the ice during the Islanders tilt with the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night, though he didn’t play like it.
The 5’11, 170 lbs. Beauvillier didn’t back down during the Islanders 2-1 win at Barclays Center, not even from post-whistle shoving with 6’4, 215 lbs. Eric Gelinas. He finished the game with two hits and five shots on goal.
“Whatever it takes to make the team,” Beauvillier said. “Here I’m playing more of a support role, just get under the skin of the opponents. It’s part of my game sometimes, so I showed it today.”
The Islanders traded up to draft the highly-skilled Beauvillier 28th overall in June’s draft. He scored 42 goals and 52 assists for the Shawinigan Cataractes in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, but the Islanders also liked that he asserted himself on the ice.
“He plays big,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “For me tough is taking a hit to make a play, winning your battles in those small areas of the ice and he’s done that. He’s a gritty guy, he goes to the dirty areas.”
As an 18-year-old, this is Beauvillier’s first test against full-grown men and NHL-caliber players. Like any raw prospect there’s a lot to learn and Beauvillier said he was nervous ahead of his first games on Monday against Philadelphia and Wednesday against New Jersey, but settled in quickly.
“It’s harder than junior for sure,” Beauvillier said of Monday’s game against the Flyers. “I felt comfortable after the first period. I think I played well. It was nice playing against those guys like [Claude] Giroux and [Jakub] Voracek. I enjoyed it.”
He said the size and speed were challenges, but he had prepared himself for an uptick in tempo and therefore they weren’t overwhelming. The biggest takeaway was having to be stronger on his stick.
Fellow prospect Michael Dal Colle compared the jump to the NHL level to the first year in junior, when the 16-year-old rookies have to go up against players as old as 20 – and can be significantly more physically mature.
“There were some big players in junior too,” Dal Colle said. “I remember when I came in at 16, I was only 170, so I’m pretty used to playing against bigger guys.”
Dal Colle – now 198 lbs. – is bigger than Beauvillier, but that can be a relatable experience and good experience to draw on for the French-Canadian prospect.
For now, Beauvillier said he’s looking to do whatever it takes to make the team and even if he doesn’t do it in his first year, the small forward with a big heart is making an impression on Capuano.
“He’s got tremendous hockey sense, he’s got good intelligence of the game and a lot of skill to go along with it,” Capuano said. “When you add that together and add that with grit and determination that’s a great combination to have.”
“He’s got a bright future in this league.”