Nicolas Beaudin – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
There are mixed opinions on whether or not Nicolas Beaudin can be effective at the NHL level. The 27th overall pick in last year’s draft wasn’t ranked as high as the Blackhawks apparently had him. Chris Peters of ESPN ranked him 67th overall in his top 80 prospects for the 2018 draft. NHL Central Scouting ranked him 36th overall among North American skaters.
But I believe Beaudin is way better than scouts have perceived him to be. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about him since the draft, but he’s performed very well with Drummondville in the QMJHL this season despite missing about a month with a wrist fracture. Beaudin is on pace for his best totals in his junior career with 1.23 points per game, which is second in the league amongst defensemen. He’s leading the defensemen on his team in scoring (6 G, 32 A, 38 P in 31 games). He just had a point streak snapped where he had 12 points in six games (1 G, 11 A).
Much like the other defensemen the Blackhawks have drafted in the past, he’s on the smaller end by NHL standards (5’11” and 176 lbs) and moves the puck really well. He has a great vision and an above-average hockey sense, both of which allow him to analyze situations and make decisions quickly. While Pronman knocked on is mobility in his analysis of the Blackhawks’ farm system, Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects praised it:
"“His mobility is all but elite at this point; he primarily uses his speed to open up passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone.” – Curtis Joe on Nicolas Beaudin"
From the highlights I’ve watched, Beaudin’s mobility isn’t elite but it’s definitely there and strong. He’s not the strongest defensively and lacks in the physicality department. However, like Boqvist, his quick decision-making and assertiveness on the puck puts pressure on opposing players, making them second-guess themselves. He has a tendency to give his opponents way too much room in his own end and struggles to close gaps while defending rush opportunities. These flaws are probably the biggest reason for him being cut so early on in Canada’s World Junior camp.
With all that being said, his transition abilities are far superior to any other prospect on this list. Beaudin plays a structured, composed game that the defensemen on the Blackhawks currently lack. He has a good awareness of the game occurring around him, and his calmness with the puck makes up for his average skating abilities.
In some ways, he reminds me of Colorado’s Sam Girard due to his size and offensive instincts. Girard is a better defender and skater than Beaudin is, though. After he was drafted, Beaudin said he models his game after Toronto’s Jake Gardiner, which is something I can absolutely see as both players possess many of the same strengths and weaknesses. I know Leafs fans have a lot of opinions on Gardiner, but he’s done pretty well for himself and is easily the second-best defenseman on that team. Beaudin may never become that, but he has a very good chance to develop into a top-four guy for the Chicago Blackhawks in a few years.