The main attraction of the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the latter half of the season was certainly Joe Veleno. The centre upped his production after joining the team, and gave a reason to everyone to circle back to him in their evaluations. But there was one consistently impressive player in this same organization all year, and it is Nicolas Beaudin. It was to the point that determining which of the two draft-eligible prospects was the best on the ice on a given night was a difficult task.
Birthplace: Chateauguay, Quebec, Canada
Weight: 172 lbs.
Team: Drummondville Voltigeurs
Any time a defenceman manages to stay at a point-per-game rate in the CHL — even the offensively inclined — QMJHL, it is noteworthy. But when that same player leads his team in production from the back end, it becomes even more impressive. Beaudin finished the season with 69 points in 68 games, before adding 11 more in 10 playoff contests.
The quality that is at the centre of Beaudin's remarkable season is his vision of the ice. He is one of the best passers in the draft.
The undersized defenceman is not a playmaker of the same calibre as some of the top blue-liners in the draft, like Ryan Merkley and Adam Boqvist, as he doesn't toy with with defenders in the same way, moving them to create scoring chances for himself and his team. No, Beaudin simply has a great awareness of what is going on around him at all times, and can feed pucks to teammates before the opposition has any chance to close off passing lanes. He is incredibly precise when moving the puck and can thread the needle to reach teammates even from across the ice.
A lot of Beaudin's points are secondary assists, and this has to be stated to put his totals into perspective. But those points also originate from his ability to constantly create clean breakouts for his team, even under pressure.
He is very calm with possession, and can bait forecheckers before giving the puck to his defence partner, setting him up for an easy zone exit. Beaudin is also adept at short saucer passes, and can directly spring his forwards into action.
And when it strikes him, he can also carry the puck out of the zone himself all the way to the other end.
Beaudin is constantly supporting the attack, and doesn't hesitate to join his teammates on the rush. He has good offensive instincts, and has even shown that he can play deeper in the offensive zone as well as any of his forwards. His ability to set up others and create tic-tac-toe plays really shines with that proximity to the goal.
Plus, the defenceman has a good wrister that he mixes in with his multiple passes to keep defenders and goalies guessing.
What keeps Beaudin from being a bigger offensive threat, and has some hindrance on his defensive game, is his skating. It's also the number-one reason why he is projected to go in the second round rather than the first.
He has a decent top speed, even through his short, wide stride due to a good usage of crossovers, but his quickness needs work in order for him to win more races to loose pucks and give him another separation tool to create plays with the puck on his stick.
His backward skating is also an handicap on his defence off the rush; it's harder to manage a good gap when you can't keep up as well with the approaching forward.
That is probably the biggest flaw in his defensive play. He tends to leave too much room to opponents both as he is descending from the neutral zone and in his own end. Apart from that, Beaudin is smart, capable of identifying and blocking passing lanes, and has a good one-one-one ability with his active stick.
And once again, he can create flawless breakouts from the takeaways he manages to make.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: 54
NHL Central Scouting: 31 (NA skaters)
I personally fell in love with Beaudin in my first few viewings. As with many other prospects, how he moves around on the ice can be a concern, but I think it's rare to see this kind of transition ability in such a young player, even if the defenceman is considered one of the elders in this draft class (an early-October birthday). This is why I think most NHL teams will think long and hard about him on draft day.
That being said, it's a lot more likely that he falls, and he could be a great target for the Habs with one of their four second-round picks, especially the latter two. He fills an organizational need, and being a left-handed, puck-moving defenceman he could have a very high potential, especially if he works the kinks out of his skating.
Dominique Ducharme can attest to his ability: he was using Beaudin almost 30 minutes a night in the last few games of the playoffs, and the prospect responded with great performances, being a quarterback for the Voltigeurs in all situations. This is what he could become at the next level with a proper development.