For a fleeting moment, it looked as though last year would be the year for Anthony Beauvillier.
Coming off a postseason run in which he had emerged to score 13 points in 19 games, including a dramatic overtime winner in the Islanders’ last stand at Nassau Coliseum, a breakout looked possible if not probable as Beauvillier entered his fifth season in the league.
It didn’t happen.
Beauvillier, like nearly every other member of the Islanders last season, never quite seemed to get his feet under him. He scored 12 goals with 22 assists in 75 games, his shot percentage dropping by six percentage points. The basic school of statistics says the latter of those, at least, should regress upwards to look more like Beauvillier’s career mark (11.9 percent in the regular season). Real life, though, is never that simple, and that’s of course not how he’s thinking about it.
“I had no idea [of that], I guess, before you told me,” Beauvillier said at his locker ahead of Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Rangers in the preseason finale. “I just know my game wasn’t the best last year.”
Beauvillier increasing his production is not so much a luxury as a necessity for the Islanders if they are to vault into the East’s pack of contenders. Though the lines could yet change between now and Thursday’s opener against the Panthers, Beauvillier looks to be a sure thing for a top-six role and has skated alongside Brock Nelson and Kieffer Bellows of late.
The Islanders need to find at least one, if not two, wingers who can score within that top six, and Beauvillier, notched an assist Saturday on Zach Parise’s power-play goal, is one of the easy candidates to name, being 25, talented and having room to grow his game.
“All we want out of Beau is just, you want to see his speed,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “He has the ability to make plays, he has the ability to score. We just focus on what we are looking for in terms of his speed and his ability to get in on pucks. And I think the results and things like that will take care of themselves. That’ll lead to more consistency for him.”
Beauvillier spoke Saturday morning mostly in generalities, putting his focus on wanting to help the team over what he did to help himself. Those two things, of course, naturally go hand in hand.
“Sometimes you get focused a little bit on numbers and stuff,” he told The Post. “It’s something you try not to really get into your head or anything, but yeah, we’re human, so at times it gets hard. You definitely take pride in that. You want to have good numbers, you want to perform well, you want to be good for your team.”
If Beauvillier’s confidence was shaken at the end of last season, that doesn’t make him unique in the Islanders’ dressing room — that sort of thing tends to happen when a team slated to be in the Stanley Cup mix fails to contend for a playoff spot. His optimism now, though, is also on pace with that of his teammates.
“We keep talking about last year and whatnot — it wasn’t a great year collectively. I don’t think it was really the year we were looking for,” he said. “Everyone’s feeling good about the team right now. Everyone’s feeling confident and we’re ready to go.”