On Friday, July 23, the Edmonton Oilers selected Shawinigan Cataractes forward Xavier Bourgault 22nd overall in Round 1 of the 2021 NHL Draft. Before making the pick, the Oilers had traded down, swapping the 20th-overall selection with the Minnesota Wild for the 22nd and 90th selections in this year’s draft.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
The 18-year-old Bourgault notched 20 goals and 20 assists, while posting a plus-7 rating in 29 games for Shawinigan in the 2020-21 season, his third in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
He stands at 6-foot, tips the scales at 172 pounds, and shoots right. Here are five more things to know about Edmonton’s latest first-rounder.
He Was Drafted On Cue
In a draft that is even more of a crapshoot than usual, and in a first round that featured its share of picks “off the board,” Bourgault’s name was called right around the point expected.
Bourgault was No. 20 on Bob McKenzie’s rankings, one spot higher than on the list of TSN colleague Craig Button. The Athletic slotted him 23rd, while The Sporting News had Bourgault at No. 24. NBC Sports actually called it, projecting the Oilers would pick Bourgault, albeit with their original pick at No. 20.
Even Bourgault himself had a sense. In his availability with media after being picked by Edmonton, he spoke of how well his pre-draft interview with the Oilers had gone.
“Just before the draft I said the Oilers was my feeling to get drafted, and that’s what happened,” he said. “I’m so happy and I think that’s a very good organization for me.”
NHL Central Scouting ranked Bourgault 13th among North American skaters. He was the 14th player of that group chosen Friday.
He’s Making History For His Hometown
Bourgault hails from L’Islet, a town of about 4,000 people in southern Quebec. He’s the first L’Islet-native to be drafted by an NHL club, and would become the town’s first ever NHL player.
It was an hour’s drive to the east, in the city of Lévis, Quebec, that he played bantam with the Pointé-Levy Corsaires and midget with the Lévis Chevaliers. In the 2018 QMJHL Draft, Bourgault was selected 33rd overall by Shawinigan.
He’s Edmonton’s First Cataractes Prospect in 25 Years
The last time Edmonton drafted a player from Shawnigan’s QMJHL team was 1996, when they used the 19th-overall pick to select Matthieu Descoteaux, a defenceman. Descoteaux never played a game for the Oilers, and was ultimately traded to the Montreal Canadiens with Christian Laflamme for Alain Nasreddine and Igor Ulanov in 2000.
Besides Bourgault and Descoteaux, Simon Roy is the only other Cataractes player drafted by the Oilers, taken 61st overall in 1992. Roy did not play pro ice hockey but spent a season in the Roller Hockey International league in 1996.
There are two former Cataractes that, while not drafted by Edmonton, played for the Oilers: defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron (189 games over four seasons between 2002-03 and 2006-07) and goaltender Dominic Roussel (eight games in 2000-01).
He Minds His Manners
Bourgault was one of three finalists this season for the QMJHL’s Frank J. Selke Trophy, recognizing the most gentlemanly player in the league. Consideration is given to players who prove efficiency on the ice, while showing maximum respect towards opponents and officials and by avoiding the penalty box. Bourgault was assessed just three minor penalties totaling six minutes in 2020-21. In 154 career regular season QMJHL games, he has totaled 38 penalty minutes.
Chicoutimi Saguenéens forward Dawson Mercer, a New Jersey Devils prospect, won the Selke Trophy f0r 2021. Justin Robidas of the Val-D’Or Foreurs was the other finalist.
He Takes This Stuff Seriously
In his media availability Friday night, Bourgault was asked if he had any hobbies and what interested him that isn’t related to hockey. The teenager’s response? “I’m a guy who really likes to train. This summer I left my hometown to live in Montreal,” he said. “It’s four hours from my hometown, so training is very important. I’m very serious in everything…”
That’s in keeping with an interview on CHL.ca during this season, in which Bourgault acknowledged he needed to hit the gym to get stronger: “At the next level, guys are very strong and fast, so I’ve been working a lot on my speed and explosiveness.
“I need to be faster in the neutral zone to be more effective,” Bourgault added. “I need to keep working on my defensive zone play and my 200-foot game. I need to focus more on that side of my game, to become a complete player, and get to the next level.” Bourgault did say he likes to play tennis and go wakeboarding — but that is only after he’s finished with training for the day.
The 2021 NHL Draft continues Saturday, July 24, with Edmonton set to pick five times: once in Rounds 3, 4, and 7, and twice in Round 6.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.