I’m sure with the announcement, that a player with the last name of Beaulieu was the first round pick for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Quebecers smiled in celebration. A native son was coming home to play for their beloved Habs. All this on St-Jean-Baptiste Day! It would have been hard to write that as a script, never mind seeing it actually come to fruition. Let the celebrations begin!
So what does this pick do for the future of the Montreal Canadiens?
As expected, as soon as the announcement was made – fans all over the province, the country, and North America (especially right here in Montreal) began the debate. Many wanted Gauthier to go after a large forward. After all, by the time the Canadiens took to the podium for the 17th overall pick, there were still many forwards available.
Some expected the front office to announce the likes of Biggs, Phillips, or Saad. Instead, Gauthier stuck to the game plan that he spoke of just prior to the draft: “Solving the defensive puzzle” of his team.
So who is this young defenseman from the QMJHL’s Memorial Cup winning Sea Dogs?
Nathan Beaulieu (despite what his last name may insinuate) is a native of Strathroy, Ontario. He’s a big body, standing 6’2″ – weighing in at 174 pounds. In 65 games played in Saint John this past season, he scored 12 goals with 33 assists. He also set a Sea Dogs single season record for a blue liner with a +44 (+/-) rating. Surpassing his own record of +43 from the previous year. Also on his CV, was an invitation to be part of the Memorial Cup All-Star team.
But what are his game strengths, and what does he bring to the Montreal Canadiens franchise for the future?Those points are best seen through quotes from both his Saint John head coach, and the Central Scouting of the NHL:
“He’s gotten better, bigger and stronger, 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.” ~ Saint John Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant
“He’ll be an offensive-defenseman … 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.” ~ NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau
So how does this bode for the future of the Canadiens moving forward? Quite simply put – it bodes well.
Although many will feel that there is no immediate need to bolster the defensive unit, and that there was a greater need for a big forward, Guathier has once again shown great vision for the future.
The Canadiens will be looking to fill some pretty big skates in the next couple of years. With the defensive unit in the big club getting older, there is a great need for a youthful infusion. The likes of Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, and Roman Hamrlik (if signed) will all be on the way out, leaving recently signed veteran Andrei Markov to groom superstar PK Subban, and work closely in the development of Josh Gorges (if signed). There is the imminent departures of Brent Sopel, Paul Mara, and James Wisniewski on the horizon, and no one should be surprised if Yannick Weber sees himself in another uniform in the very near future as well.
Even if Weber stays, as he’s proven himself to be a quick skating D-man, I don’t foresee Alexandre Picard as being a long term contract for the Habs either. So the acquisition of a large, strong, offensive defenseman is nothing but positive for the club.
Here’s a compilation of some of his work:
There is still many a player available in the second portion of the 2011 Entry Draft, and there’s a good opportunity that Gauthier will secure a decent forward for the future of La Flanelle.
But despite all the griping – of which I admit, I was not overly thrilled for the first 5 minutes after the announcement was made – Beaulieu is a great steal, and will do nothing but good for the future of the Canadiens.
Welcome aboard Nathan – Bienvenue au Montreal!