NEWARK — The Islanders likely gave their four young forward prospects a last look together Wednesday night, with roster cuts looming today and the season opener a week away.
And the leader of the pack of first-round picks is a bit of a surprise.
Anthony Beauvillier, the 28th pick in the 2015 draft, has shown himself to be a versatile, speedy force at all three forward positions and, at 19, has worked his way into consideration for a longer look once the Islanders’ season begins next Thursday.
“To me, he’s one of the guys that’s emerged,” coach Jack Capuano said of Beauvillier, who scored the eventual winner in the third period of Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the Devils. “Put him at center, put him at left wing, right wing, in all situations. He does things the right way. Some of these young guys aren’t going to come in and play top-six minutes, so what kind of role are you going to play on our team? That’s what we’re looking for right now.”
That doesn’t mean the other three — 19-year-old center Mathew Barzal and a pair of 20-year-olds, Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang — haven’t had their moments to shine. In the case of Barzal, the 16th pick in 2015, he’s shown incredible creativity on offense and also is making a case to stay next week.
Barzal and Beauvillier may only stay with the Islanders or go back to their junior clubs because of age restrictions. They can stay with the Isles up to nine games without their NHL contracts kicking in, so next week may not bring the final call on either of them, and it’s likely the Islanders can keep only one.
So for Beauvillier, who had 40 goals in 47 games for Shawinigan of the Quebec League last season, it means doing anything and everything to get noticed.
“It’s pro hockey, it’s not junior anymore, so I’ve got to do things a little different,” he said. “In junior you can cheat a little bit for offensive chances, but you can’t do that here. I can play different types of games and it’s what I have to do if I want to take that next step.”
Beauvillier played Wednesday night on the power play, the penalty kill and at center between Dal Colle and Ho-Sang, both of whom can go to the AHL if they don’t make the team. Ho-Sang, who has drawn seven power plays in four preseason games, showed more of his speed and skill Wednesday night, generating half a dozen scoring chances and assisting on Beauvillier’s winner.
“I want to be a guy who can be counted on in any situation, with any linemates, so this has been a good preseason for that,” Ho-Sang said. “You’re adjusting to the speed, the opponents. I just want to keep getting better at all of it.”