Beaulieu comes back a better player

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

Josh Beaulieu spent almost two weeks in the Philadelphia Flyers' pro camp, the longest stay for any London Knight at a pro camp.

Some would find it surprising Beaulieu spent that long, considering how relatively inexperienced he is, even at the major junior level.

His long stay speaks volumes about how hard he's worked. It also says the Knights might be getting back a better player than the one who left.

"I definitely gained a lot of confidence up there," he said. "It was an awesome experience, the best time of my life. It just makes you want to work harder so you can go back there. My goal was to stay as long as I could. I worked hard from when I got on the ice the first day.

"I'm interested to see what this camp has done to me, but I'm sure it's nothing but good things."

His return means the Knights now have their full compliment of players who are coming back. Forward Jordan Foreman, out with a broken foot, will be examined this week and may be cleared to begin skating on Friday.

Beaulieu's addition gives the Knights a run-through-the-wall type of guy who can work the corners and in front of the net. Despite his relatively lean stature, he's always played an aggressive game. In past years, the 19-year-old has been banged up, a walking bruise who's never let his aches and pains get in the way of his effort.

But this year, he's up to a solid 185 pounds.

"I played a few exhibition games with the Phantoms (the Flyers American Hockey League team) and I did OK," Beaulieu said.

"The one thing I learned though is that you have to mature and get bigger. That's going to come with time. I went out there and worked hard, I wasn't shy, rucking it up, on the puck and that's what they like."

Beaulieu has also seen first-hand the importance of being a strong skater.

"When I was skating with those guys, you see their foot speed. They're a lot quicker and they know the ins and outs of the game.

"You just have to work on your skill every day. That's how you get better at them. That's what I'm going to do to get better."

He'll wear the alternate captain's A. Other than that, he expect to be treated to the same style of game he's played the last three years.

"I take pride in a leadership role. I think I can be a big leader on this team and make a big contribution to the team in that way.

"But I'm just going to go out with the same mentality as I've always had the last couple of years -- go out and play my game, work hard in the corners, play defensively, help out a little offensively."

He missed the Knights' 6-3 opening-night win over the Saginaw Spirit on Friday. He'll be in the lineup this Friday at the John Labatt Centre against the Owen Sound Attack.

Knights coach Dale Hunter liked what he saw against the Spirit. He wasn't behind the bench, serving the first game of a two-game suspension. He'll miss the Owen Sound game as well.

"We were a little sloppy defensively but that's because there's so many new players, it's going to take time for them to get to know each other," Hunter said.

There was a lot of speculation on who would play with promising newcomers Pat Kane and Sam Gagner on opening night. They skated with Sergei Kostitsyn and were an impressive trio, combining for five points.

Very impressive was the line centred by captain Rob Drummond. He played between Adam Perry and rookie Luke VanMoerkerke.

They enjoyed a 10-point debut.

Hunter has become known as a juggernaut of line juggling. One never knows how long any line will stay together. But for now, those lines appear safe.

There was one other impressive statistic that got lost in all the offensive numbers. Returning defenceman Scott Aarssen quietly had a big night, going plus-4.


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