Photo Credit: Cataractes de Shawinigan / Olivier Croteau
Xavier Bourgault is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible forward prospect, who hails from L’Islet, Quebec. L’Islet sits right on the St. Lawrence River and the Trans-Canada highway connects the town with Quebec City, Trois-Pistoles and Rimouski.
Bourgault is one of the older players in the 2021 NHL Draft class. His birthdate (October 22, 2002) is roughly a month shy of the NHL Draft class cut-off.
In his youth hockey days, Bourgault played bantam hockey with the Pointé-Levy Corsaires and midget hockey with the Lévis Chevaliers. During his bantam and midget days, he played with three of his current Shawinigan Cataractes teammates including William Veillette, Antoine Coulombe and Nicolas Daigle (only with Lévis).
Bourgault was drafted by Shawinigan in the 2018 QMJHL Draft in the second round at 33rd overall. Last season was Bourgault’s second season in the QMJHL and he led the 2021 NHL Draft eligible class in points with 71. In addition, he tied his fellow teammate and line-mate, Mavrik Bourque (Dallas Stars prospect) for points. This season, Bourgault has recorded 14 goals and nine assists in 19 games played (stats as of March 1, 2021).
D.O.B – October 22, 2002
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Center/Right Wing
Handedness – Right
Bourgault’s Style Of Play
While Bourgault has played center throughout youth hockey, he has spent a lot of time at right wing with the Cataractes. He remains a fixture on the top line with Bourque and fellow 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect Olivier Nadeau.
When it comes to Bourgault’s skating, he is a straight line skater with wide skate placement. His wide skate placement hurts his mobility, but when in full stride, you don’t notice his wide skate placement. It is only when he slows down in the offensive or defensive zone. When he widens his skate placement, his mobility isn’t the only thing that fades away. His ability to reach forward for a poke-check also suffers.
In addition, I have noticed that there are times where Bourgault has challenges with his skate extension recovery. There are moments when Bourgault is looking to bring his skate back underneath his torso, but the extension was too long to begin with, so he fails to bring the skate completely back and falls. It’s similar issues to what Ottawa Senators prospect Roby Järventie deals with.
Not only does Bourgault have some challenges to overcome with his extension and recovery, his edges need more development as well. Sometimes when Bourgault is deploying his outside edges, he will use his left skate as an anchor without any knee flexion, but at the same time, he uses knee flexion on his right skate. Without both knees properly bent, it becomes tough to turn and utilize the outside edge properly.
He will also struggle with quick pivots when dealing with pressure at the boards. When facing a back-check in the offensive zone, he seems to struggle to find his way out of danger. Sometimes he will dodge traffic by squeezing through, but that won’t work most of the time especially at the NHL level. The goal should be to iron out his pivoting, so he can fool attackers and open up ice for himself.
Aside from Bourgault’s skating, I want to touch on his shot next. Bourgault has solid range on his shot and is a threat in high and medium danger. The Quebecer loves draining one-timers and does a great job at elevating his shot. He can go top shelf from the low slot/door-step and all the way out at the perimeter. Bourgault can pick his corners with ease and tends to favor shooting at the blocker side, but will attack the glove side as well. His snap shot is very smooth and has a solid release.
Puck-Handling, Reach and Transition
One of Bourgault’s weaknesses is his reachability. There are times where he positions the puck way too far in front of him and he can’t hold onto the puck. Puck security is paramount to success. Bourgault needs to work on maintaining possession of the puck with tighter puck-handling.
But, I’ve also noticed some issues with his reach in the defensive zone. When the attacker is too far out in front of him, he will sometimes try to use his reach to poke-check, but given his limited reach, he needs to be much closer to the attacker to thwart the rush. Ultimately, Bourgault needs to develop better upper body strength to allow him to position his stick further out.
When in transition, Bourgault loves to either play the puck off the boards to navigate around the defender or dump and chase. Bourgault will shift the puck from forehand to backhand and throw a backhand pass to the boards to swerve around the attacker. Ultimately, his transitional play reminds me of Carolina Hurricanes prospect Seth Jarvis.
In terms of puck-handling at open ice, Bourgault reads movements from his opposition really well and adjusts his stick-handling on the fly. He will read their movements and play the puck away from the attacker.
When I watch Bourgault pass, I immediately think of Mavrik Bourque and how much I truly enjoyed watching him find tight lanes to pass through when I was evaluating him last year. If you thought that the Shawinigan front office wants to have a full lineup of Mavrik Bourque(s), well you are on the money. Bourgault passes like Bourque. Full stop.
Bourgault’s play-making ability is top-notch and he constantly finds lanes to deliver crisp passes through. But, his passing doesn’t just shine in the offensive zone, he also has shown great passing ability in the neutral zone. He identifies tight lanes to get the puck through to an open teammate (who is at the edge of blue-line). Plus, if traffic is bearing down on him, but he sees that Bourque has an open path to the offensive zone, he can and will utilize diagonal cross ice backhand passes to initiate zone entries. Bourgault constantly is reading his opposition and tailors his passing to their movements.
Finding Open Ice
Bourgault does a tremendous job at finding open ice. But, he doesn’t just apply that ability to his offensive zone play. He will use it in all three zones. Bourgault will pin point open ice in the neutral zone or in the defensive zone to help initiate a breakout. The strategy for Bourgault is always on the hunt for open ice to help with his team’s transitional play.
But, we can’t forget to mention how crucial his ability to find open ice is in the offensive zone. He uses his vision to understand player movements and find gaps to exploit. For example, check out the clip below, in which he skates unnoticed behind three attackers and gives his teammate an option in the low slot.
Defensive Play, Aggression, Forechecking
While Bourgault is outstanding when he is in control of the puck, there are some challenges when he does not possess the puck. As I mentioned above, his reachability hurts him when poke-checking. His wide skating stance hurts his mobility and slows him down when he is on the forecheck/back-check.
But, he is also not overly aggressive. When his teammates are on the forecheck/back-check, he plays more of a complimentary role. He supervises and stays at open ice. But, his positioning can be shaky at times. In the defensive zone, he’ll put himself in park at the perimeter and will sometimes adjust which side of the ice he is on if Nadeau has shifted to the other side.
In addition, Bourgault needs to be stronger at identifying potential threats in the defensive zone. Sometimes, he gives away too much space and gets lost puck tracking instead of identifying where the opposition is.
Brendan Gallagher, Right Wing, Montréal Canadiens
Given Brendan Gallagher’s shooting ability and his ability to find open ice at a drop of a hat in all three zones, it seems like the perfect comparable for Bourgault. Also, both forwards are outstanding in transition. The only area where Gallagher is slightly different then Bourgault is the aggressive playing style. But, hopefully when Bourgault develops his skating more and more, he will be far more aggressive and speedy to the puck.
In addition to Gallagher, Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets is another solid comparable for Bourgault.
Top Six Winger (NHL).
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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