SHAWINIGAN - It's roughly an hour and a half drive from Saint-Hyacinthe to Shawinigan, Quebec without traffic or snow on the ground, which is a rarity during the hockey season.
It's a drive Anthony Beauvillier knows well, and he claims he can get there with his eyes closed, though he needs to make a quick course correction after he starts veering towards the the wrong onramp - towards Montreal - when getting on the highway.
The drive is a jaunt through rural Quebec that passes east through Drummondville, before doubling back northwest through Trois-Rivieres, the third biggest city in the province, but until then, farmland outnumbers buildings and towns by a healthy margin.
Shawinigan itself isn't a big city. It made it's mark originally as a pulp/paper industry town off the Saint Maurice River and is home to about 50,000. But for Beauvillier, who played three years of junior for the Cataractes, it holds a lot of memories and a place in his heart, which is why he's on hand in late May to give the New York Islanders digital team a tour for the team's inaugural Summer Series.
Video: Isles Summer Series: Anthony Beauvillier
The handshaking begins immediately as Beauvillier walks through the doors of Centre Gervais Auto - the Cataractes' arena. Beauvillier seemingly knows everyone at the rink, from the front office staff in the box office, to the equipment staff and PR guys hanging around the rink.
"I still have a lot of friends here," Beauvillier said. "I came to a game and they did a big video tribute for me. That was pretty cool. I had such a good time here in Shawinigan."
It makes sense that he's well-known and well-liked in the confines of the arena, as the 21-year-old is only two years removed from playing here, where he put up 206 points in 178 games. His picture is still on the walls of the concourse, as one of the celebrated alumni and a graduate to the NHL - and he has a burger named after him at a local bistro.
There's a lot of activity at the rink on the Wednesday Beauvillier visits, as the Cataractes are preparing to host the QMJHL draft that Friday night. (Beauvillier is slated to be one of the guests of honor at the event.) As part of the display, the Cataractes have dressed up the locker room, hanging alumni jerseys including former Ottawa goalie Patrick Lalime, Colorado defenseman Sam Girard and Beauvillier's.
Beauvillier grabs the golden yellow jersey on his tour of the room and is asked about what it meant to him to be a captain of one of the oldest teams in the Q at 18 years old.
"My brother played here for a half a season and he was the captain of the team and two of my really good friends were captains when I was here before," Beauvillier said. "Having the C, you have a little more responsibility on your shoulders, it was cool that I could lead a team to a final."
Beauvillier's best moment with the Cataractes was leading the team to the QMJHL final in 2015-16, scoring 30 points (15G, 15A) along the way. Shawinigan wound up losing to Rouyn-Noranda in five games, leaving a sense of unfinished business, as Beauvillier wound up making the Islanders the next season, instead of returning to junior.
"It was a surprise to make the Islanders at 19," Beauvillier said. "I thought I was coming back, even during the year I thought, alright, I still might be coming back… They gave me my housing letter, but still I didn't really have the words 'you're staying for the full year.'"
Beauvillier didn't take a last lap, or take a puck from one of his final games with Shawinigan, but he said he wouldn't change or trade that first year with the Islanders for anything.
That being said, he still enjoys coming back, walking through the locker room, looking into the stands where he'd see his father watching him in warmups - his dad only missed one home game in three years due to a wheel coming off his car - and reminiscing about highlight reel plays.
As Beauvillier gets back in his car to make the drive to Saint-Hyacinthe, his eyes are open and looking to the future, but there will be a piece of him - and a burger - that stays behind.
"The city was so fun, such a great city to play hockey in," Beauvillier said. "I had a blast in my three years here."
MORE SUMMER SERIES CONTENT:
Video: Summer Series: Beauvillier's Burger
Video: Summer Series: Beau's Car Karaoke