With Xavier Bourgault being sent down to the AHL after a good preseason and NHL camp, it’s only fitting to have a preview for his upcoming season.
Bourgault’s scouting assessment
Before diving into how Bourgault’s upcoming season may go, it’s best to know what kind of player he is since he was pretty much an unknown during his NHL draft year.
Bourgault is a smooth skating right-handed forward who can play both wings at forward. He is 6’0” and around 175lbs. He is very smart and elusive in the offensive zone. While also possessing a quick release on his shot, he has deceptive speed which can catch defencemen off guard. During his draft year, it was duly noted that Bourgault could use some improvement on his play away from the puck and in his play along the boards as he was still not very strong or big yet.
A good player comparison for Bourgault would be Kailer Yamamoto with more skill, size, speed, and much quicker release.
Here is a link to Bourgault’s stats from his junior career and his first AHL season:
AHL rookie season review
Fans were very optimistic about Bourgault when he came into training camp in 2022–2023 because he was very impressive in the NHL Young Stars Classic from the year before and his last season in the QMJHL was very strong.
But, after a weak second training camp with the Edmonton Oilers, Bourgault’s first season in the AHL was average at best. It was not very good and not very bad. Bourgault displayed flashes of high offensive potential, but he struggled at remaining consistent on a daily basis. He was also not very good along the boards and at winning puck battles. Obviously, his size played a factor. But Bourgault also had not anticipated much of this play style because he hadn’t encountered it in junior hockey. This is not uncommon to see when it comes to a junior player adapting themselves to the professional game. There are some scouts in the NHL that believe the QMJHL is the weakest league in terms of defensive play in Junior when compared to the OHL and WHL.
After a slow start, Bourgault persevered and, not only started to bring in the offensive skill Oilers and Bakersfield Condors fans expected to see, he used his strong work ethic to become better defensively at even strength. He became a better defensive player in all three zones and started becoming a much stronger player away from the puck. Bourgault’s season ended with him playing 62 AHL games, 13 goals, and 21 assists. He ended his first season higher than 0.5 point-per-game. He left himself stronger defensively at the end of the year and also found himself in control of his offensive skill in the AHL.
Confidence is the best way to describe Bourgault’s rookie season. As his confidence grew, so did the extent of his potential.
Below is a small highlight package of Bourgault’s play from the 2022–2023 season, courtesy of HSD Prospects on Youtube:
2023–2024 training camp analysis
Bourgault came into this training camp hidden in a crowd and has gone down to the AHL, fully distinguished and close to the top.
Not many fans and media members were excited to see what Bourgault would be bringing into September 2023. But, after seeing the kind of game he brings and what he may bring in the future, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is on the minds of people in Edmonton. When hearing Coach Jay Woodcroft’s speak on October 3 about Bourgault, it seems very likely that he will be called up when there are injuries. But, his main task now is to become an important player on the Condors and to continue trending in the right direction.
There is something else that should be taken of note in the camp that Bourgault had. When watching him play, we only saw him score two goals in the preseason. However, we saw him score those two goals playing on the third line against the Seattle Kraken.
All of the good play that Bourgault showed us was done playing with other rookies or third/fourth line players. Bourgault helped win board battles and he didn’t shy away from attacking the net whenever the opportunity presented himself. He dug deep into the corners whenever a puck needed to be retrieved and created plays in the offensive zone. He was also very good in the defensive zone because he had a lot of time on the penalty kill. He excelled at it and reminded me a little like how Zach Hyman is on it and how Yamamoto was. He used his high level of hockey IQ to make the right plays at the right time in the offensive zone and the defensive zone.
The improvement in Bourgault’s defensive zone play and penalty kill bodes very well for the player because, as everyone now knows, there is no room to play yet on the top six. If a forward wants to play on the Oilers right now, they have to be able to do the dirty work on the forecheck and the smart work in the defensive zone. If Bourgault continues this trend of play in the AHL, it’s very likely he will stick on the Oilers next season and possibly as a third line winger like Dylan Holloway.
Expectations for the upcoming season
Bourgault has a very big chance now to grab a top line winger role with the Condors. Like Woodcroft said, he has to become an important player for the team. I fully expect Colin Chaulk to give Bourgault the ice time of a top six winger. Based on how he performed in training camp and the roles he was given, Bourgault will be getting penalty killing time as well which creates more excitement around the player. He will be getting top power play time playing with players such as Seth Griffith and Brad Malone.
Bourgault also has an opportunity to become a leader for the team in the locker room because more rookies will be on the team this year such as Matvey Petrov and Maximus Wanner. He can help guide them into becoming good professional hockey players just like himself. It will be an opportunity for Bourgault to gain more experience. This is definitely a player that I will be keeping tabs on!
Season Prediction: 70 AHL games, 28 goals, 35 assists, +16, one call up to the Oilers