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Tie a Beau on It: Beauvillier trade ends an era of excitement and irritation

While he never quite fulfilled the promise of his second year’s scoring numbers, Anthony Beauvillier could still lift you out of your seat.

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
No Islanders did this better than Beau.
Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images

We’ll be hearing about the Beau-for-Bo trade for a long time. As a fan of Stan Lee and the “Make Mine Marvel” School of Alliteration, I appreciate the satisfying literary cohesion of the deal.

But in trading winger Anthony Beauvillier (and prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first round pick) to Vancouver for center Bo Horvat, the Islanders have finally closed the book on a player that is equal parts flashy and frustrating. Beauvillier never reached 40 points in a season and only hit 20 goals once. He could score huge overtime goals or disappear for weeks at a time. He could victimize the Rangers at Madison Square Garden for a hat trick or miss an open net lay-up with the game on his stick.

Beauvillier was one of the few Islanders with actual speed, and he showed it frequently, busting down the ice on a breakaway or a 2-on-1. Much of the time, nothing came of it. But 102 times in 457 games, it worked, which seems more-or-less like the right ratio.

He was drafted the same year and same round as his friend from Team Canada, Mathew Barzal. The two formed a fun bromance, hanging out off the ice, taking in NBA games, and being forever tied together as the first rounders taken in a year in which the Islanders had no first round picks. Former GM Garth Snow was able to draft the winger from Shawinigan thanks to three other teams - the Oilers, Lightning and Rangers - and a series of moves on the floor near the end of the first round.

For a while, it seemed to be the steal of all steals. Barzal always had star potential. But in an unpredictable twist, Beauvillier actually preceded his bud to the NHL, spending his age-19 season with the Islanders while the higher profile Barzal was sent back to his junior team in Seattle. Beauvillier’s nine goals and 15 assists weren’t Calder Trophy-level, but they showed he could play the pro game and might be a valuable piece as he and the Islanders matured.

His second season - now playing with Barzal, although rarely on the same line - was his high point, a 21-goal burst that had fans dreaming about what his ceiling might be. Could he hit 30? Forty? With a playmaking center, quality defensemen and now a scoring winger, could the Islanders be a juggernaut in the making? Uh, yes and no. It took a guy who preached structure to make them very, very good. And Beauvillier scored 18 goals in each of the next two seasons under Barry Trotz. Not bad, but not 30 either. He had an okay 15 goals in the shortened 2020-21 season and just 12 last year. Things were going backwards.

It was always about streaks with Beau. He went 14 games without a point in 2021-22. He had one goal in a 19-game slump in 2019-20. Just this season, he had stretches with one assist in 10 games and no points in eight. He could play his speedy, whirling dervish style and still go weeks without so much as a single assist. And as versatile and tantalizing as he was, it became very hard to find a place in the lineup where Beauvillier could be both effective and consistent.

Because he could be effective. His best stretch was part of the “Killer B’s” line alongside Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey in the playoffs. He particularly came alive in overtime. There was one against Buffalo a few years ago, and even one against Toronto this season. And of course, his most famous goal and his enduring gift to us all came in overtime of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021. This was where the potential and hopes for Beauvillier reached their absolute peak. You trade a bunch of picks on the draft floor for a guy and then five years later, he does this? That’s what GMs, teams and fans dream of.

For all of his droughts and slumps and cold streaks, there was always something loveable about Beau. Maybe it was the OT goals and straight ahead speed. Maybe it was that he was - hands down - the best goal celebrator on the team and, as Mike pointed out on our post-trade podcast, an expert at jumping into teammates’ arms after they scored. Or maybe it’s the blue eyes or his normal human size or his nicknames (both Beau and Tito are acceptable) or that he has a hamburger named after him back in his junior town of Shawinigan.

On the ice, Beauvillier might not quite have reached the potential we all thought or hoped he could. But when someone names a hamburger after you - one of the highest honors a human being can achieve in their life - it means you’re doing something right and that people want to be around you.

It will be weird not having Anthony Beauvillier around the Islanders any more. Yes, he drove us crazy. But more than most players, he felt like a buddy of ours. I wish him the all the best in Vancouver in the future, and I hope we stay in touch.