Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Nicolas Beaudin wasn't getting a lot of attention for his play early in the season as a defenseman with Drummondville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
That certainly didn't keep him from becoming one of the best at his position among players eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft.
By season's end Beaudin (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) was tied for second among QMJHL defensemen with 69 points (12 goals, 57 assists) and eighth with a plus-27 rating in 68 games. He's No. 31 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the draft, which will be held at American Airlines Center in Dallas on June 22-23.
That's impressive for a player who began the season as a C-rated player on Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list.
"He's a very skilled, puck-moving player who likes to join the rush," Troy Dumville of Central Scouting said. "He has some defensive things he needs to work on, but overall it was a really good season for Drummondville and [Beaudin] really stepped up in the QMJHL playoffs.
"It's hard not to recognize him for his contributions."
Beaudin, 18, had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 10 playoff games. Drummondville lost to Victoriaville in five games in the second round, but his speed, efficient transition play and vision all were on display.
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"He's such a smart guy with his hockey sense and his vision of the game," said Dominique Ducharme, who was general manager and coach of Drummondville this season prior to leaving to become an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens on April 27. "He often sees a play developing in advance, he knows what will happen, he has good anticipation. He is a proud guy who defends the right way and keeps getting better at it."
Like most offensive-minded defensemen, Beaudin worked all season on his defensive game. Playing on the top pair with Drummondville, he was aware that he couldn't solely rely on his offensive instincts.
"At the beginning of the season I would have said that I was an offensive-defenseman," Beaudin said. "But I had a talk with our coaches two weeks in, and I became a reliable two-way player.
"I take pride in my offense as well as my defense. I don't think there are many defensemen in the NHL who are purely offensive, so being so good defensively, that's where I will stand out from the crowd."
Beaudin said he isn't worried that his size could hold him back from being an effective player in his zone. He understands how to dodge battles that may get too physical, but he doesn't retreat from anyone.
"You always have to play with intensity and show that you have character," he said. "If there is a check to be made, you have to do it, even if you're smaller. I just have to be smarter and play more with my stick to win my battles."
And if he continues to be able to use his speed and vision, Beaudin likely won't see his value decline over a few inches in height.
"Size doesn't have the same importance today," said an NHL scout from an Eastern Conference team. "The game has become so fast that what's important for a defenseman is mobility and agility. Beaudin is a fluid and mobile skater and that's what we're looking for in the NHL."