With the 22nd pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers have selected Xavier Bourgault from the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)
About Xavier Bourgault
The undersized center from L’Islet, Quebec, is a scoring threat from all areas of the ice. He reads the play at a high level, whether it is making a deceptive pass to his blueliner or finding the tricky passing lane on the power play. He is not the fastest skater, but a skills coach can develop that aspect of his game. There are also defensive issues in his game, as he is known not to cover his man in his zone. He could be a project for a team that is willing to develop him slowly, and it may pay off in the long term.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) has had a rough 2020-21 season, to say the least. They were one of the first Canadian junior leagues to start their season, but were soon wrought with delays and postponed games after just a couple of weeks, especially for teams in the province’s red zones. At the beginning of December, they paused the league again until January while Quebec tried to get their COVID-19 outbreaks under control. That’s left some teams with 40-plus games under their belt, while others have as few as 26. The playoffs have also been hit, as the QMJHL has already had to push back their expected start date to the end of the month.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
“That’s made things incredibly difficult for Xavier Bourgault, one of the league’s top-rated prospects. Last season, with the Shawinigan Cataractes, the center notched 33 goals and 71 points, which tied for the highest total among under-18 players. However, this season, the Cataractes were one of the least affected, but still played just 34 games, and Bourgault managed to dress for just 29 of them. Yet he led draft-eligible players with 1.38 points per game and 20 goals, and came second in total points with 40.
“Bourgault’s performance over a challenging season vaulted him into the first-round conversation. His quick release and accurate shot make him a scoring threat from anywhere, and even if he’s off his game, he’s able to generate offense around him. But the strongest aspect of his game is his playmaking and vision. Much like teammate Mavrik Bourque, a 2020 first-round pick of the Dallas Stars, Bourgault is able to find passing lanes in both the neutral and offensive zones, making him a killer on the power play.
“Skating and defense are not Bourgault’s strong suits, but they don’t lag noticeably behind other junior players. He is quick in straight lines, but loses quite a bit of speed when changing directions, likely due to his wide skating stance. He also doesn’t have the greatest positioning, which also negatively affects his mobility. It appears he’d rather be on offense, always looking for that open ice that could lead to a breakaway. But these issues aren’t red flags; many forward prospects come to the professional ranks with gaps in their skating and defensive game. They can be learned much easier than if they were lacking in other areas.
“However, there may also be some concern as to whether he took enough of a step forward this season. In 2019-20, Bourgault looked to be on the verge of a massive breakout. The team around him was improving and adding more talent, and it likely wasn’t out of the question as to whether he could break the 100-point barrier. But he never did. Not only did the league have to deal with the continuous problems associated with the pandemic and quarantines, but Bourgault didn’t vastly improve his production from last season, where he has a 1.13 points-per-game pace. Spread over a full season, he only would have hit 87 points — a fine total, but nothing mind-blowing, especially after a 71-point draft-minus-one season.
“There’s no question that Bourgault has top-end skills. His vision and playmaking abilities are among the best of his class, and he’s been one of the most productive forwards in the QMJHL. But his ceiling may not be quite as high as once thought a few months ago.”
How This Affects Oilers’ Plans
The Oilers added another center prospect into their pipeline, joining Ryan McCloud and Maxim Denezhkin. He is a scoring threat with an accurate shot with skating and defensive concerns in his game. His performance over the challenging QMJHL season propelled him into the first-round conversation.
The Oilers have added to their center depth behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, allowing Bourgault to develop slowly. He will not be the best player from this class, but he projects to be a solid middle-six contributor.
Jordan Jacklin is a freelance writer who covers the Buffalo Sabres here at The Hockey Writers. Jordan is a student at Ryerson’s Sport Media program and uses analytics and video scouting to evaluate your favourite players in the game.