Over the past week we've been looking at prospects the Sharks could have a chance to select with the 9th overall pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft. Today we're shifting gears a bit to delve into the options that might be available with San Jose's second round selection in this draft, the 39th pick. With a relatively early second round choice in an exceptionally deep draft, the Sharks are well-positioned to add another quality prospect to their organization on Saturday morning.
Few prospects who could realistically fall to 39 are more exciting than Anthony Beauvillier. The Shawinigan Cataractes center is coming off an extremely productive season in which he averaged more points per game than any other draft-eligible CHLer save likely top-five picks Connor McDavid, Mitch Marner and Dylan Strome. His offensive ability is matched only by his reputation as a top-flight defensive center and faceoff ace. If it weren't for his relatively small stature, Beauvillier would be a consensus first-round pick. As it stands, he's ranked as low as the mid-40s by some scouting agencies. If he ends up going anywhere near that range, he'll end up being the steal of the draft and it would be nice if the Sharks are the team doing the stealing.
What do the scouts say?
A 5'10" forward with gaudy scoring numbers conjures visions of a flashy, uber-skilled perimeter player but Beauvillier isn't that at all. He has terrific hands and plenty of talent but what really stands out about Beauvillier's game is his tenacity on the forecheck, his anticipation when reading plays, his willingness to battle in the corners and along the boards against much bigger players and his drive to always make a positive play with the puck rather than settle for a dump-in or a chip off the glass. In some ways his playing style is reminiscent of Joe Pavelski, although Beauvillier is a better skater. Last Word On Sports ranked him 38th and had this to say about the two-way pivot:
Beauvillier is not afraid to go into the corners, or to get to the front of the net. He shows a gritty game, battling hard for position in front and loose pucks in the corners. He will also need to continue to add muscle to his frame in order to be ready to play at the pro level. Beauvillier has very good hockey sense. He makes the smart play with the puck on his stick, and he finds openings in the defense to set up for a one-timer when he doesn’t have it.
Anthony Beauvillier is also an excellent skater. He has a good stride generating excellent speed and very good acceleration. Add in the fact that he has a quick first step and he is able to be quick on the forecheck, first to loose pucks and beat defenders on the rush. He also has very good agility and edgework, which combines with his stickhandling ability to make him very dangerous in one-on-one situations. He has a very low-centre of gravity which gives him good strength on his skates, and makes him very hard to knock off the puck and helps him in battling for pucks and in the cycle game.
Beauvillier shows his grittiness, and the fact that he doesn’t take a shift off, in his defensive game as well. He works hard in the corners and battling for loose pucks along the boards. He also supports his defense on the back check, and in supporting against the opponents cycle. He is excellent on face-offs and is already one of the top players in the league on the draw. Beauvillier is very good positionally and takes away shooting and passing lane. His two-way way play is a major strength. He can have difficulties with bigger, stronger forwards though, and will need to add muscle to play this game at the next level.
Beauvillier is ranked 33rd among North American prospects by Central Scouting and 43rd in Bob McKenzie's final rankings.
What do the stats say?
Beauvillier was far and away the Cataractes' best player this season and, despite having just turned 18 this month, one of the best players in the entire QMJHL. His 94 points were 30 better than anyone else who played in Shawinigan for the full year and his ridiculous 337 shots on goal (in just 67 games!) were the most of any player in the Q, draft-eligible or not. The QMJHL also tracks "dangerous shots," analogous to scoring chances, and Beauvillier was third in the entire league in that category as well. His 35 goals were absolutely not a shooting percentage-driven fluke; this kid generates scoring opportunities by the bushel. And as much as the QMJHL carries the reputation of being a pond hockey league, Rhys Jessop of Canucks Army has shown that's no longer the case as the Q now actually averages the fewest goals per game of any CHL league.
The Q also tracks faceoff numbers and Beauvillier's 58.7% success rate in the dot was third in the league (again, this is the entire QMJHL, not just draft-eligible players) among centers who took at least 100 faceoffs. There's just so much to like about Beauvillier's game by both the eye test and the numbers test. It's just the height test where there are some understandable concerns but should that alone really be enough to drop someone this good at both ends of the ice to the second round? It's also not like Beauvillier is a waterbug; at 5'10", 170 he's already about as big as NHL superstars like Claude Giroux and Patrick Kane and it's not like size holds them back. Nor does it inhibit even smaller guys like Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau. It might take an exceptionally talented player to make an impact in the NHL at Beauvillier's size but all the evidence points to Beauvillier actually being that good.
Should the Sharks be interested?
If the Sharks opt to keep the 39th pick and Beauvillier is still available at that time, he'd almost certainly be the best player still on the board and a steal of a selection. Despite the pre-draft rankings, though, I think some team will be shrewd enough to snap him up late in the first round. Doug Wilson hinted at moving up or down in the draft, as the Sharks have done in the past, and if they're able to pocket an extra first-rounder from such a deal (perhaps the Jets would be willing to trade 17 and 25 for 9), Beauvillier is well worth considering in that range too. You're likely never getting another Joe Thornton without drafting 1st overall but a future center depth chart that features three two-way aces in Beauvillier, Logan Couture and Chris Tierney would be a solid foundation to build a contender upon.
What does he look like in action?
In a break from the usual highlight reels set to shitty music, here's an awesome in-depth breakdown of each of Beauvillier's shifts from a game against Rimouski. His hockey IQ and fearlessness when fighting through traffic really come out here: