This year’s draft was a bit unexpected for Ken Holland and the Edmonton Oilers. For the first time in a long time, the team decided to trade their only first-round pick. Now, it wasn’t that drastic as they only moved down two spots from #20 to #22 in a swap with the Minnesota Wild.
The move itself is less surprising but, when you consider that the club had a chance to draft Jesper Wallstedt, the top-ranked goalie in the draft, it becomes a little spicier. Considering the team’s recent struggles in finding a true starting goaltender it seems like picking Wallstedt would have been a no-brainer.
Instead, they opted to move down to select Xavier Bourgault, a hard-working right-winger with a high offensive ceiling. He was consistently ranked around the range he was taken so it was by no means a reach at that position. The question that will follow the team is whether or not it was the right move to walk away from Wallstedt.
Ok, now that we have a good handle on the circumstances surrounding Bourgault’s arrival, let’s dig a little deeper into the player.
Xavier Bourgault is heading into his fourth and final season with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. He has been a very productive forward for the club in his previous two seasons, notching a gnarly 111 points in 92 games.
Despite only being 172lbs he is remarkably hard to get off the puck. A quick look at a highlight reel from the Frenchman will show just how good he protects the puck from attackers as he battles his way into the zone. His skating isn’t anything to write home about but doesn’t appear to be a weakness either.
His on-ice vision is also fairly impressive; being able to connect with teammates with crisp passes when under pressure. Overall, he seems like the ideal middle-six winger on an NHL team from the offensive side of things.
The downside in his game comes from his defensive play. As is the case with a lot of young forwards, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on the offence and less so on the defence. He tries to channel that relentless work ethic into defending but he is prone to being overly aggressive to the point where he either takes a penalty or misses his coverage altogether.
There will surely be a lot of eyes on him as he takes part in his first NHL rookie camp with the Edmonton Oilers and, subsequently, his first NHL training camp later this month. While I think he has a lot of great tools in his game already it is clear that this won’t be the year he makes it to the NHL.
I fully expect him to be sent back down the Shawinigan so he can complete his final year in junior, where he will then make the jump to professional hockey by playing with the Bakersfield Condors for the 2022/23 season.
Time will tell if he is able to outshine Wallstedt at the NHL level but, as it currently stands, Bourgault is by no means a wasted pick and has the potential to become an impact player at the NHL level if he can reach his potential.