Islanders need to play Anthony Beauvillier on top line
Going into 2020-21, the New York Islanders are going to have to let Anthony Beauvillier fly offensively on the top line with Mathew Barzal.
With 39 points in 68 games in 2019-20, Anthony Beauvillier was having his best season yet for the New York Islanders. After back-to-back years plagued with inconsistent play, 2019-20 was a great change of pace for Beauvillier who gave a more consistent showing on the ice.
But in 2020-21, with an imminent cap crunch, the Islanders are going to have to find ways to get more out of their current lineup. Moving Anthony Beauvillier to the first line next to Mathew Barzal is one of those options.
Playing With Barzal
The Islanders need to add a top-six winger to their roster. But adding a top-six winger is going to be difficult considering the situation the Islanders are in with their cap. It’s going to take some significant movement to make enough room to accommodate that type of addition.
Squeezing extra value from the players they already have is going to be key in 2020-21. Anthony Beauvillier, to me, is someone who can give them that extra value. Specifically, if he’s on a line with Mathew Barzal.
Over the last three seasons, Beau has played 1,187:47 minutes (at 5on5) with Mathew Barzal. That’s the most ice-time shared with another player for Beau. With Barzal, Beau was able to score 32 points (20 goals and 12 assists) at 5on5. The most between Beau and any other forward on the team.
Just to compare. Beau lined up with Brock for 1,017:57 minutes (at 5on5) over the same period and produced 23 points (nine goals and 14 assists).
For Barzal, he’s produced 53 points (19 goals and 34 assists) at 5on5 playing alongside Beauvillier over the last three years. That production is second only to the 74 points (20 goals and 54 assists) Barzal has with Jordan Eberle. Barzal and Eberle have also played an extra 565 5on5 minutes together.
Beauvillier and Barzal produce well together on the ice when given the chance.
I know that Barry Trotz started the pair together in 2018-19 and split them up after a few games into the season. It wasn’t working then, but in 2020-21, two seasons later, that’s a combination that has to be reconsidered.
It’s important to remember that in 2018-19, Beauvillier was only in his third year of NHL hockey and playing under his third coach. That’s a tough hurdle to overcome for a young player still trying to figure out his game in the pros.
We’ve seen flashes of what Beauvillier can do. Even under Barry Trotz. Giving more offensive responsibilities in 2020-21, Beau could easily be a player that flourishes in a bigger role.
Just because Beauvillier had a good run with Nelson in 2019-20 doesn’t mean he needs to be attached at the hip with the Isles second-line center for the remainder of his career.
The biggest takeaway from Beauvillier’s game in 2019-20 isn’t that he can only produce next to Brock Nelson. It’s that he’s capable of putting in a consistent performance night-in and night-out that fits the coach’s system. That lesson can easily be applied when playing next to Barzal.
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The combination of Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal just isn’t producing as it should. Lee would be best served in a second line role next to Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey. And in 2020-21, Barry Trotz is going to have to look at swapping Beauvillier into Lee’s spot on the top line.