With a new two-year, $2 million contract in his back pocket, Nathan Beaulieu is out to prove he can be a top-four defenseman, and power play specialist with the Montreal Canadiens.
“For next season I want to play a bigger role on the team,” Beaulieu said during his conference call on Saturday. “I feel I can play big minutes with this team. It doesn’t get handed to you, so I know I need to earn big minutes, and with that you need to be in tiptop shape.
“I feel like going forward the next couple seasons I want to prove I can play big minutes (and) that I’m definitely a top four guy that can help the team win.”
The 22-year-old appeared in 65 games with the Canadiens in 2014-15 scoring one goal and eight assists while averaging 15:42 in time on ice.
He also appeared in eight American Hockey League games with the Hamilton Bulldogs scoring two goals and four points.
“It took a lot of patience. It was a journey. I had to play a little time in the American (Hockey) League, and I had to grow little aspects of my game,” Beaulieu said of becoming an NHL regular. “It was a process and I feel like now I’ve grown into an NHL player.
“I feel like me along with the organization, we’ve figured out a plan for myself, and we know what I can do.”
Part of what the 6-foot-2, 194-pound blue liner wants to do moving forward is earn a regular role on the club’s power play.
“I’ve got a great guy to learn from in Andrei Markov,” he said. “I know I’m a power play guy, just got to wait for the opportunities and I know that eventually I’m going to be a power play guy.
“You got to earn it. It just doesn’t get given to you. I’m ready to take on responsibilities and earn a spot.”