Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal have been friends since the two Canadians from opposite sides of that country — Beauvillier is from Sorel in Quebec, Barzal is from Coquitlam, British Columbia — played together for Canada’s World Junior under-18 squad in Switzerland in the spring of 2015.
That was a couple months before they were selected 13 picks apart by the Isles in the first round of the 2015 draft. After a couple of near-misses by Barzal to stick on the Isles roster and a modestly successful rookie season for Beauvillier last year, the 20-year-olds are gunning to not only make the Isles this camp, but make an impact.
The fact that both of them do not need waivers to be sent to the AHL complicates matters a bit — as does the fact that both are natural centers, though Beauvillier has played wing. and there are salary cap considerations.
They were each centering the top lines Wednesday night in the Isles’ split-squad games against the Flyers, with Barzal between Anders Lee and Casey Bailey in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Beauvillier between Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle at Barclays Center. John Tavares and Casey Cizikas, two regular Isles centers, were not in either lineup after taking maintenance days on Tuesday.
“That is tough. I get cap updates every day, I know what’s going on,” coach Doug Weight said. “If they earn it, they’re playing. We want to win Oct. 6, I could care less — as long as we’re not over that $75-million, I’m taking the players who earned that spot on the team.”
If the Isles send down one of their veterans to make room for any or all of Beauvillier, Barzal and Josh Ho-Sang, the team can only receive $1.025-million of salary-cap relief. The Isles are just less than $3 million under the cap, so the number crunch could make it difficult to keep both Beauvillier and Barzal from the start of the season.
“I’m not really thinking like that right now,” said Barzal, who scored his second goal in two preseason games Wednesday night. “Taking it practice by practice, be noticeable whether in practice or a game. Whatever management decides at the end, that’s in their hands.”
And when the friends hang out away from the rink, there’s not much talk of roster spots.
“We’re just friends,” Beauvillier said. “Outside of the rink, we try to talk about something else, rest a little, hang out, have fun. We know we need to have good games and good camps to stay here and have a good role on the team. We know what’s up.”