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When is Anthony Beauvillier going to do something for the Canucks?

After an underwhelming start to the season, Anthony Beauvillier is getting an opportunity to play with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser.
Anthony Beauvillier has been far too quiet to start the season with the Vancouver Canucks?

The stars for the Vancouver Canucks have been outstanding to start the 2023-24 season, with their names all over the top ten in NHL scoring. The bottom-six has been contributing too, with the likes of Sam Lafferty, Conor Garland, Nils Höglander, and Dakota Joshua chipping in on the scoresheet and/or putting up sterling underlying puck possession numbers with their hard forechecking and defensive efforts.

Then there’s Anthony Beauvillier.

UPDATE: Anthony Beauvillier has been traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a fifth-round pick, rendering much of the remaining article immediately obsolete. But please read it anyway or show it to a Blackhawks fan to make them feel bad.

When the Canucks traded Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders, the primary pieces coming back were the first-round pick and prospect Aatu Räty. That first-round pick turned into Filip Hronek and Räty has shown some intriguing upside in the AHL with the Abbotsford Canucks. Beauvillier was also part of the deal but, with his middling offensive numbers and some defensive struggles, he seemed like an afterthought — just a way to make the salary cap numbers balance.

Beauvillier quickly made an impact in Vancouver, however, piling up points on a line with Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko. After settling in with the Canucks, Beauvillier when on a run where he had 5 goals and 11 points in 9 games, giving fans hope that he could be a legitimate top-six forward and help replace some of Horvat’s departing offence.  

This season has been a different story. It’s been hard to get a read on Beauvillier as he’s essentially been invisible. Occasionally, he will earn a puck on the forecheck or win a board battle, but won’t do much of anything with the puck after. Otherwise, he’s been unnoticeable.

That can be a good thing for a defensive defenceman; it’s less good for a $4.15 million winger who is expected to produce.

Beauvillier does have 8 points in 22 games but they’ve mostly been empty calories — a few secondary assists, an assist on an empty-net goal, and the ninth and tenth goals in the Canucks’ 10-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. Those are his only two goals of the season.

Meanwhile, Beauvillier’s underlying numbers have been underwhelming. 

According to Natural Stat Trick, Beauvillier’s 48.7% expected goals percentage is seventh among the 11 forwards who have played 200+ 5-on-5 minutes with the Canucks, and three of the forwards below him are J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Phil Di Giuseppe, who have been playing the hardest minutes on the team in a match-up role.

His goals above replacement (GAR), according to Evolving-Hockey, is -0.9, suggesting he’s been playing like a below replacement-level player this season. That ranks 17th among the 21 players who have appeared in at least one game for the Canucks this season.

Those numbers are not outright terrible. Like Beauvillier, they’re just sort of there. Beauvillier hasn’t hurt the Canucks — they have out-scored their opposition 10-3 with Beauvillier on the ice at 5-on-5 — but that has more to do with the Canucks goaltenders putting up a ludicrous .975 save percentage behind him, the highest on the team.

To be fair to Beauvillier, he’s been a bit snakebitten this season, with a 5.4% shooting percentage that is well below his career average. But he also hasn’t been creating the types of scoring chances that would have a higher likelihood of going in. At 5-on-5, Beauvillier is getting scoring chances and high-danger chances at the lowest rate of his career, by the reckoning of Natural Stat Trick. 

There are also his linemates to consider. Unlike last season where he got an opportunity to play with Pettersson and Kuzmenko, Beauvillier has primarily played in the bottom-six with Lafferty and Höglander. But playing minimal minutes in the bottom-six hasn't stopped Lafferty and Höglander from being visible and tangibly contributing to wins.

Now, however, Beauvillier has been bumped up the lineup and is expected to play with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser — two of the top scorers in the league right now. This is his opportunity to break out and prove that he isn’t a non-entity but a real contributor to the success of the Canucks.

If not now, when?