After being a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Nicolas Beaudin has appeared in just one game for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Prior to joining the Rockford IceHogs for the 2019-20 season, Beaudin played four seasons in the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. In 211 regular-season games, he scored 24 goals and had 143 assists for 167 total points. He was a highly-touted prospect given his offensive ability and impressive skating.
In the 2018 NHL draft, the Blackhawks used their first pick on Adam Boqvist at eighth overall and selected Beaudin not much later with the 27th pick. It was obvious the Blackhawks were looking for skilled defensemen with offensive upside, and that is exactly what they got in both these players.
Though the two players have similar skillsets, Boqvist was called up early in the season and spent the remainder of the year in Chicago while Beaudin seemed to get lost in the shuffle.
What He Brings to the Lineup
At just 5-foot-11 and 175 lbs, Beaudin uses his impressive skating ability and hockey IQ to make up for his lack of size when defending. Never one to make big hits, he uses his body well to position himself and to shield the puck from attacking forwards. He has a quick first step and is able to break the puck out of the zone with his feet or by making a clean pass. His vision allows him to make passes other players may miss.
The Blackhawks' organization had high hopes for Beaudin coming into the 2019-20 season, but his first professional year didn't go quite as planned. Regarded highly as an offensive defenseman, Beaudin struggled to produce and in 59 games with the IceHogs. He posted just three goals and 12 assists for 15 points. He scored his first professional goal on December 13th in a 5-2 loss to the Belleville Senators.
Beaudin finally made his NHL debut on March 11th against the San Jose Sharks. It was also the last game the Blackhawks played before the season was suspended due to coronavirus concerns. In the game, Beaudin played a total of 17:01 and was paired with veteran blue-liner Duncan Keith. Even though the Blackhawks won the game 6-2, the pair struggled. According to Natural Stat Trick, Beaudin and Keith had a Corsi-For percentage of 38.24 at 5v5 and were on the ice for 13 shots against.
Individually, Beaudin didn't fare much better, but he was on the ice for Brandon Saad's late second-period goal and finished the game with a positive scoring chances-for percentage of 53.33. He also recorded two shots, two hits, and two blocked shots. Just a couple days later, the NHL season was put on hold and Beaudin's chances of making an impression were over for the time being.
The Blackhawks are currently at an interesting place when it comes to defensemen in their organization. With veterans Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook having already played their best hockey, the team has a mix of experience and youth that hasn't quite worked yet.
With injuries to different players and poor defensive play throughout the season, the Blackhawks were frequently calling up defensemen from Rockford. Adam Boqvist was called up early in the year and appeared in 41 of the team's 70 games. He has rightfully earned his spot in the lineup and is the future of the team's back end. Dennis Gilbert was given an opportunity that he made the most of and squeaked out 21 games with the team, but his chances of being an everyday NHL defenseman are slim. Lucas Carlsson even saw action in six games, but it wasn't until the final game of the shortened season that Nicolas Beaudin got his chance.
With the recent signing of Ian Mitchell, who many speculate will play in the NHL right away, there isn't much space in the lineup next season and it could be Beaudin being left out once again.
Beaudin is currently signed to a three-year, $3.5 million contract which expires after the 2021-22 season when he becomes an RFA.