16. LD Nathan Beaulieu – Saint John (QMJHL)
DOB: Dec. 05/92 | Shoots: L | Height: 6.03 | Weight: 191lbs
Midterm Rank: 22 | League Rank: 3rd QMJHL | Country Rank: 11th Canada
Some players were born to play hockey. Nathan Beaulieu of the Saint John Sea Dogs is one of them. Nathan has been around hockey his whole life. His father Jacques Beaulieu is a big reason for that. Nathan spent a lot of time in and around the London Knights locker room when they had players such as Corey Perry, Rick Nash and Rob Schremp. Jacques has been coaching junior hockey since 2002 including coaching Nathan with the Sea Dogs in 2008-2009. That off-season was a tricky one for Nathan. He saw his father get fired as head coach of the Sea Dogs while he still had to head to training camp the following summer. It was anybody’s guess how he would handle the difficult situation but needless to say he handled it perfectly.
In the 09-10 season, Nathan had 12 goals and 33 assists and an amazing +43. He helped the Sea Dogs reach the finals of the QMJHL. They lost to the Moncton Wildcats in 6 games but the bitter taste left in his mouth was used as motivation during the off-season. With his draft year upcoming and the league buzzing about the strong team returning for Saint John, Nathan worked hard during the summer to improve every aspect of his game from skating and shooting to defensive zone coverage.
The hard work paid off for Beaulieu and the rest of the Sea Dogs as they not only won the QMJHL Championship but proceeded to hoist the Memorial Cup in Mississauga. He improved his defensive zone coverage the most and head coach Gerard Gallant rewarded him by sending him out during key defensive situations and penalty kills. Beaulieu also attended tryouts for the Canadian World Junior team. Despite a strong showing, Nathan failed to make the team. He impressed the scouts however and should make the team next season. Oddly enough, Nathan once again had 12 goals and 33 assists but improved his +/- by one for a +44 while also adding 4 goals and 13 assists with a +17 in the playoffs.
A lot of people discount Beaulieu’s stats, especially his +/- because he played on a very strong team for the last two seasons but you could put him on any team in the league and he would easily be a + player. He’s a very smooth skater with a long stride. His passing is top notch which plays a key role in the Sea Dogs’ breakout. As mentioned, his defensive play is much improved and he has learned to use his size more to push opponents off the puck or protect the puck when rushing up the ice. He sometimes plays with a mean streak and when he does, he’s virtually untouchable.
During a playoff game this year he turned the puck over in the offensive zone and proceeded to skate back in the defensive zone, muscle the opponent off the puck with a big hit, steal the puck and rush it up ice. He brought it to the net. nearly scoring on the play and Jonathan Huberdeau buried the rebound. If Beaulieu can play with this edge more consistently he could become an elite defenseman in the NHL. He is not afraid to drop the gloves when he thinks it’s a good time to fight but he knows that his coach counts on him to log a lot of minutes so he can’t spend too much time in the penalty box.
Scouts would like Beaulieu to be more consistent. He sometimes tries to do too much with the puck and be too fancy. That is not uncommon for someone with that much skill. You shouldn’t be too worried about this because he has great hockey sense and when the game is on the line he gets things done. He has had the opportunity to play with great defensemen such as Yann Sauve and Simon Despres while logging big minutes. Don’t discount the ice time and experience Beaulieu has had over the past 2 very long hockey seasons. This is most likely why his performance at the NHL Combine was not spectacular. Some of the players there had been practicing the exercises for 2 months or so while Beaulieu had been playing hockey up to the week prior to the event.
Pros: Great vision, offensive instinct, passing and poise
Cons: Consistency. Will need to become stronger and that mean streak more often to play D in the NHL.
Skill-set Comparison: Mike Green