2020-21 Team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Date of Birth: Oct. 22, 2002
Place of Birth: L’Islet, Quebec
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 172 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2021 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 13th (amongst NA skaters)
- Bob McKenzie: 17th
- McKeen’s Hockey: 28th
- Future Considerations: 21st
- Andrew Forbes, THW: 19th
- Matthew Zator, THW: 15th
- Peter Baracchini, THW: 18th
- DobberProspects: 15th
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.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Xavier Bourgault – NHL Draft Projection
Bourgault is unlikely to be picked in the top half of the first round, but should be expected to go somewhere within the 20-30 range. Concerns over his defense and skating will hold him back a bit, as will the QMJHL’s rocky season, but another concern that may pop up is his age. He missed the cutoff for the 2020 Draft by just a few days, making him one of the oldest first-time eligible prospects in 2021. His age also allowed him to play a full extra season before most of his contemporaries, and in junior, experience is a major factor in ice time and getting opportunities. That may also place his development this season under even more scrutiny, as the extra season should definitely have resulted in a bigger jump forward.
“Coming off a fine rookie season, his shot and release are deceptive and similar to that of Connor McMichael.” Mike Morreale, NHL.com
“Bourgault is a dynamic offensive player who is relentless in his puck pursuit. The 18-year-old… scored 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 10 games this season.” Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet
“Bourgault is a player who you can rely on to help generate scoring chances and make a difference on the scoresheet, even if he isn’t having his best night. He may not be a difference-making first-line winger but he should be able to play a top-six role with some very active and attack-focused offensive game that relies on driving the center lane and working off his teammates.” Tony Ferrari, Dobberprospects
“Bourgault’s game is centered around his awareness and anticipation. His IQ is so astoundingly apparent on the ice, and he uses it to the best of his ability. His vision with the puck, ability to be at least a step ahead on every play, and his on-ice work ethic make him a threat in every area. One area of his game that grades out extremely high due to his high-end anticipation is his transitional game.” Kyle Pereira, Last Word on Sports
- Shot/Quick release
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Puck possession
Bourgault has the makings to become a top-six winger in the NHL. As mentioned previously, there are some concerns about his skating, but he has plenty of speed and agility and it has not hampered his offensive production nor his ability to transition seamlessly between zones. He can pick out open ice and always has his head up, looking for that opportunity. He’s drawn some comparisons to Brendan Gallagher, who also was scrutinized for his skating when he was drafted back in 2010. He’s also been compared to a more offensive, less defensive Blake Coleman in terms of his transition game, which is one of the best in the NHL.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 9/10, Defence – 6/10
Bourgault played on Canada White at the 2019 U17 World Hockey Championship and appeared on Team Gold at the U17 Development tournament that same season. In the season prior, he suited up for Team Quebec at the QGC-16 tournament, where he finished in the top-10 in scoring with three goals and six points in five games.
Xavier Bourgault Statistics
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.