Shortly after the Montreal Canadiens selected Nathan Beaulieu, the defenceman promised fans he had plans to learn to speak French as soon as possible.
If Beaulieu can live up to his potential on the blue line, speaking French will be the least of concerns for Habs fans.
Although the St. John Sea Dogs’ defenseman was ranked ninth in Future Considerations’ final draft rankings, Beaulieu fell to the Canadiens at 17th overall and arguably was one of the steals of this year’s first round. Despite the wait, Beaulieu exclaimed that the elation in being selected by Montreal was a family affair.
“Growing up a French Canadian, [my father] is very excited, but not as much as me though,” Beaulieu said. “I’m very happy with where I ended up and I can’t say enough good things about this great organization.”
Beaulieu’s journey to the draft was rocky to say the least.
In 2008, Beaulieu was selected by Saint John in the fourth round of the QMJHL Midget Draft, the same team that his father Jacques Beaulieu, had been coaching for the previous two seasons. Beaulieu’s rookie season under this father was rough, as the 16-year-old tallied just two goals and was a minus-4 in 49 games. To make matters worse, his father was let go after a season that saw the team swept in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs.
Beaulieu debated about leaving the Atlantic Canadian-based club, but opted to stick with the squad under the direction of his father’s replacement, Gerard Gallant. With help from a stellar defensive that included Simon Despres (Pittsburgh, 2009) and Yann Sauve (Vancouver, 2008) Beaulieu caught fire in his first season under Gallant, notching 45 points in 65 games. Equally as impressive was his turn around in the plus/minus department as the then 17-year-old finished a plus-43, third highest among his Sea Dog teammates.
This past season, Beaulieu’s had a nearly identical season statistically as the 2009-10 season with the Sea Dogs. Beaulieu put up 12 goals and 33 assists and finished plus-44, second highest among defenceman on his Memorial Cup champion team.
The major accomplishment for Beaulieu personally was an aspect that does not show up on the score sheet. Beaulieu’s decision making, something that was often one of his weaknesses, turned into being one of the defenceman’s strong suits as the season wore on.
“Looking back, it’s been such a rollercoaster and I’ve been working for this over the last 18 years,” Beaulieu said.
While Beaulieu’s improvement over the years is an accomplishment in itself, Beaulieu is determined not to get complacent and was eager to look ahead at his next goal upon being drafted: earning a spot on the Canadiens club. Beaulieu believes he already has a leg up after playing inside of Gallant’s system this year.
“[Montreal] is a puck moving club and Saint John was like that this year so I think that helps out a lot,” Beaulieu said. “I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Including forging an NHL career and the French language.
Andrew Weiss is a Future Considerations columnist and can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WeissFC. Follow the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed at www.twitter.com/FCHockey, on YouTube at www.youtube.com/futureconsiderations and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FCHockey
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