Nathan Beaulieu, D Saint John Sea Dogs(QMJHL)
Born: December 5, 1992 in Strathroy, Ontario
Strengths:Good mobility; wide base/track skater with quick acceleration and the ability to change direction quickly. Solid agility, edge control and footwork make him effective in all zones. Not blazing fast, but has a long stride that allows him to beat the forecheck and carry the puck on his own. Strong passer; sees the ice well and can make all short, intermediate and long-range stretch passes. More of a puck mover than a puck rusher, Beaulieu nevertheless will jump into the play and join the rush. Has a big shot; with accuracy and a low trajectory that makes for a more tippable drive for his forwards in front of the net. Good wrist shot, too- recognizes situations and uses the wrister when time and space isn't there for the big bomb. Scored the winning goal against Mississauga in the opening game of the Memorial Cup tournament by jumping up into the play and cashing in on the doorstep (even though teammate Zack Phillips was offside on the play) Offensive instincts are solid, with vision, recognition and the ability to make decisions under duress. Capable defensive player; rubs guys out along the boards and takes proper angles rather than make the big hit, but always looking to initiate contact and plays a rugged game. Quick stick and exhibits good gap control. An underrated, even nasty fighter; doesn't drop the gloves all that often because most opponents have seen enough from him to give Beaulieu a wide berth. Too valuable to be spending a lot of time in the box, but when riled up, tends to uncork a devastating combination of crosses and haymakers in rapid fashion.
Weaknesses: Got off to a slow start offensively, and scouts said he was trying to do too much. Once he simplified things and relaxed a bit, the production just came naturally. Improvements to his game need to be tweaks to mechanics in his shot (release point and quickness, pivoting to right, etc.). Supremely confident- even a bit cocky sometimes- could stand to dial it down a notch, but according to insiders, a respected kid in the room who puts the team first and has his mates' backs.
Alex20Wild's YouTube Beaulieu Compilation Video
Nathan Beaulieu combine interview (B2011DW video)
Style compares to: Ryan Suter
Draft prediction: Beaulieu is an interesting case study in the variance of opinions that you often find with the draft. Some public lists have him top-10, while others have him closer to 20. What we know: Beaulieu is a first-round pick, but it will all come down to how NHL clubs see his upside. His 45 points on a formidable team don't lend a great deal to the idea that he'll put up the kind of numbers worthy of being a top-10 pick, but his playoff performance in helping his team capture the Memorial Cup was more in line with what a player of his talents and upside should make happen. We shall see. Seeing him go as high as 9th wouldn't surprise, but if he drops down around or just past 15, it won't come as a major shocker. Some simply aren't sold on him as a high-ender.
Projection: Potential No. 1 or 2 offensive-minded defenseman and power play specialist. Beaulieu can score, defend, hit, fight- the works. He's a smart kid, the son of an accomplished major junior coach. Some are hung up on his lack of elite production given his setting, but we tend to take the longer view that his clutch performance in the playoffs and Memorial Cup is more of an indicator of future success than his relatively pedestrian regular season numbers.
Background: Father, Jacques, was named head coach of the OHL's Sarnia Sting last month after finishing the season as an assistant coach with London. The elder Beaulieu previously served as the head coach of the Saint John Sea Dogs when that team drafted his son, but gave way to Gerard Gallant in 2009-10. Nathan grew up around the London Knights in the early 2000s when his father was an assistant under Dale Hunter- got to know Corey Perry and Rick Nash when the two were starring there. Participated in Team Canada World Jr. Evaluation Camp in Calgary a year ago, playing well. Expected to make the 2012 WJC squad. Does not speak French.
If Beaulieu had his own soundtrack it would be: "Subtle Hustle"- Clutch
"Was so underrated so long by so many people that he's now become overrated. I love everything about him but the hockey sense, and that's a big concern."- NHL Eastern Conference scout to B2011DW; May 26, 2011
"Beaulieu is a solid offensive defenseman with some good size. His overall game has improved this year and when he is playing his best he can control things. Offensively, he is a very good player who will go a little higher than maybe he should because of a lack of high-end 'D' outside the top-10."- NHL Western Conference scout to B2011DW, May 9, 2011
"He's such a smart, character kid. He's exactly the kind of player you want on your team- has some real offensive potential but I keep going back to his character and the fact that he brings his best to any situation."- NHL Eastern Conference scout to B2011DW May 9, 2011
"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 to NHL.com
Beaulieu's close attention now paying off- NHL.com feature by Mike G. Morreale