Whenever the coronavirus shutdown of sports, and in particular, hockey ends, the New York Islanders must figure out what they have in forward Anthony Beauvillier.
Beauvillier, 22, took part in his fourth pro season this year and once again produced an up-and-down year, similar to his campaign the year prior.
Before the league suspended play on March 12th, the Sorel-Tracy, Quebec native was sitting on 18 goals and 39 points through 68 games. In the Isles’ last game in Vancouver — a 5-4 shootout loss — Beauvillier notched an assist and logged 22:02 of ice time, his most all season long. It was also the first game in a while that he was really noticeable.
And that’s where the problem lies.
If the Islanders are going to be a consistent contender in the coming years, finding the right fit for Beauvillier is crucial.
They thought they had it two years back when it was he, Mathew Barzal, and Jordan Eberle were one of the dominant trios in the NHL in the second half of the year. That vanished last season when head coach Barry Trotz barely batted an eye at putting the trio back together; Trotz paired those three back together in the postseason last spring, and it worked but didn’t go back to the well to start this season. There was some hope that it was he, Brock Nelson, and his fellow Frenchman Derick Brassard during the team’s remarkable 17-game point streak. That too fizzled out.
Ever since that trio was disbanded, Beauvillier hasn’t been the same player. Yes, there’s been flashes and some strong showings, but not nearly consistently enough. And it’s tough to keep bringing up that same narrative because it felt like Beauvillier had turned a corner earlier this season.
Beauvillier came flying out of the gates to start this year. He was clearly one of the Isles’ best forwards from opening night till mid-December, which drew praise from Trotz and the coaching staff.
GAME WINNING GOAL.
THAT'S IT. pic.twitter.com/WK9GqyIvgM
— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) December 14, 2019
“Beau looks like a different player this year,” Trotz told Newsday back in October. “A lot of that has to do with the type of playoff he had last year . . . When it’s the most important time of the year, and you’re able to elevate your game, it sort of carries over. I think there’s a lot of confidence in that and who he’s playing with, and they’re having success.”
That quote from Trotz feels like it was years ago because of how long this shutdown has prolonged. But it was the right thing to say at the time; Beauvillier did look different. Then the inconsistency and the scoring droughts took hold again, and that’s why we’re back at square one.
For a player who has proven he has 20-25 goal capabilities — he’s tallied 21, 18, 18 in his last three seasons — Beauvillier has been given every opportunity to show he can be relied on as a top-six forward. Very rarely this year did Trotz move him off the second line before the hiatus, due to the fact that he’s one of the very few skilled forwards that the team possesses.
Now, with the influx of possible top-six forwards, particularly wingers, in the pipeline — Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows, Otto Koivula and Simon Holmstrom — Beauvillier’s future with the Isles isn’t as clear as it was a few years back.
He does have one more season remaining on his two-year, $2.1 million contract, which will take him to age 24 by the time it ends. But how much longer is the organization willing to have faith in a player who is heading into his fifth season and hasn’t progressed to where he should be?
There are a few options to consider:
Does the brass give him another shot to solidify himself in the top-six moving forward?
They could, but he would need to produce and do it on a nightly basis.
Would Beauvillier be slotted better as a third-line presence?
It’s worth looking at after Trotz had to keep coming up with makeshift units for that line all season. Beauvillier would bring some much-needed skill and speed to that part of the lineup.
What about trading him to regroup one or two of the draft picks the organization traded away?
At 22, Beauvillier is still young and raw enough to have a good amount of value that teams believe would help them now or in the future.
Could he be a part of a bigger package that brings back a big-name forward? Could they swap him in a one-for-one deal?
The Islanders offense was abysmal at too many points this year, and dealing Beau for a more productive piece would help solve one of the club’s biggest problems. Beauvillier’s name has always floated around in trade talks, most notably when g.m. Lou Lamoriello was pursuing Matt Duchene and Mark Stone at the trade deadline a year ago.
All those possibilities make the next few months very interesting for Beauvillier and for the Islanders.
Not too long ago, Anthony Beauvillier was perceived as one of the key pieces to what the Islanders were building upfront. It’s been a bit of a rocky road since then.
And it’s going to continue as the Isles ponder their future about how he fits into the club’s plans moving forward.