2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 5 Nathan Beaulieu
May 9, 2011 1 Comment
It’s very difficult to duplicate your stats each season in hockey. It’s even harder to, literally, duplicate them. Saint John Sea Dogs defenseman Nathan Beaulieu has done just about that. In both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, the 6-foot-3, 191-pound Strathroy, Ontario native has posted 12 goals, 33 assists, and 45 points. Not convinced? His plus/minus in 2010 was plus-43, while his rating this season was plus-44. Oh, and he did it in just one less game this season than he did last.
Many have argued that Beaulieu is one of the top-two defensemen in this year’s draft, along with Adam Larsson. The top-rated defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior League, Beaulieu is one of the most NHL-ready players for this summer’s draft. However, he was extremely disappointed when, after an impressive showing at the Canadian World Junior camp in August, he wasn’t invited to join the team for the international tournament in January. But Beaulieu claims he understands that he’s still young and will use it as motivation to make the team next year.
That’s assuming he doesn’t go pro.
“He’s gotten better, bigger and stronger,” Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant told NHL.com. “He’s playing a lot better defensively but he’s pressing for his points. He’s a guy who gets a lot of opportunities because he jumps into the rush very well.”
“He’ll be an offensive-defenseman,” NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com.
“He’s a good skater, good puck-mover. He has a good shot and is very poised with the puck. He’s a veteran who has a lot of responsibilities for Saint John.”
Beaulieu’s father was Saint John’s GM and coach when his time in the QMJHL began, but after Beaulieu Sr. was sacked for Gallant, Nathan had his doubts. But a year later, Gallant is in the running for Canadian League coach of the year, and the Sea Dogs are one of the best junior teams in the continent.
“It was a difficult decision, but my dad told me don’t do anything stupid to jeopardize your career,” Beaulieu said in an interview with LFPress. “I went back. I worked to improve my shot all last summer and I scored almost 20 goals (including playoffs). I played on the power play and we had two good units. They told me they expect big things from me next year.”
Beaulieu has great skating ability, incredible hockey sense, and an innate talent to make that first breakout pass. He also has the ability to play physically and stand up for himself and his teammates when necessary. However, some scouts believe that he must work on his special teams play, in addition to his positional play in the offensive zone. And Beaulieu knows what else he must improve on if he wants to succeed at the next level.
“If you’ve seen me play, one of the things I’ve got to get better at is my own end,” he said. “I’m going to work on everything this summer. Shooting, skating. Playing defense, you always have to get stronger.”
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.