At 110th overall, the New Jersey Devils selected Drummondville Voltiguers defenseman Xavier Bernard. He’s big, he comes from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and he is also shoots with his left. Let’s learn a little bit more about a player that some may call ‘X.’
Who is Xavier Bernard?
According to Elite Prospects, Xavier Bernard was born on January 6, 2000 from Mercier, Quebec, Canada. He is a left-shooting defenseman who is listed at 6’3” and 203 pounds. He played for the Drummondville Voltiguers of the QMJHL in his second season of major junior hockey. He improved from 55 games and six points along with no points in four playoff games to 66 games with 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) along with a goal and three assists in ten playoff games. He averaged about a penalty minute per game in both regular season and playoff games in 2017-18, but it does not appear to be excessive. A quick look at the QMJHL’s statistics page (which is now like the WHL and OHL but sadly that’s a step back from where it was about five years ago), shows that Bernard had 112 shots last season - which is huge step up from the 48 he had as a rookie. The stats page also lists that he had two power play goals, which suggests he had a first taste of the man-advantage in major junior last season. That all said, Bernard did finish second on team scoring among defensemen to Nicolas Beaudin - and eleventh among all skaters.
Bernard has not played for Canada since the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge. His ranking among various services was quite varied. EP listed a few which shows that. On the positive side, Bernard was ranked 71st by McKeen’s and 83rd by Future Considerations. On the negative, Hockey Prospect had him at 139th and ISS had him at 160th. So he was pretty much set to be a mid-draft pick, which is exactly what happened today.
What Others Say About Xavier Bernard
Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst has been tweeting every pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft with a quick take on each. Here is his about Bernard:
Devils at 110 take punishing defender Xavier Bernard. Good size, mobility and a cannon. Loves to hit people.— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) June 23, 2018
A more complete profile was made by Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey Prospects. Bernard was Kerr’s 74th profile. As usual, the whole thing is worth reading. His skating section stood out to me.
Bernard is a very good skater. He has good speed in both directions, which allows him to play a strong two-way game. His acceleration is also good in both directions. He has good edgework and pivots. Bernard is able to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. His agility, as well as his lateral movement, are very strong. This helps him to maintain good gap control and to keep attackers in front of him on the rush. Bernard also has a strong lower-body. He has excellent balance and is very tough to knock off the puck. Bernard battles hard in the corners and in front of the net. He keeps the crease clear, and he wins the battles for loose pucks.
It’s very encouraging to read about any prospect that has good skating abilities and mechanics. It’s even more so when it is for a larger player. This is not a player who could be described as plodding. Kerr goes on to note that defense is pretty much Bernard’s main aspect, but does believe he has some offensive potential. It could be a case where he needs more of an opportunity, which I would expect he could have with another year or so in the QMJHL. Kerr’s profile as a whole is encouraging in that it seems that Bernard could be a player one day.
For another take, Ryan Biega profiled Bernard at Canucks Army. Their impressive, statistic-based profiles include models they developed to determine their potential for the future. They had Bernard at #95 on their list. Biech’s profile notes that while Bernard does not really jump off the page with his abilities, the underlying numbers are “encouraging” for having a future in this league compared with past prospects in the QMJHL. These paragraphs summarize his game as a whole:
Bernard is not someone that will wow you in any way – he is just dependable in all three zones with no elite skills. He is smart on his reads and timing of engagements and is poised in the defensive zone, never looking to be out of place or out of position.
There have been some suggestions that he needs to be more aggressive in the defensive zone but that would take away from what he does well which is read and adjust to play. Using his stick to disrupt lanes or clogging up the open space.
He possesses a good first pass, a heavy shot and good at getting those shots through to the net. There is a lack of creativity in all facets of his game, which isn’t a bad thing per say but likely limits his overall ceiling as a prospect. He skates well for his size with strong strides but lacking explosive acceleration.
Biech thought he would be best as a fourth or fifth round pick, but was concerned that he would be picked earlier due to his size. Well, that did not come to pass as Bernard was selected at 110th overall. As for the quoted paragraphs, I’m satisfied with what I read. If Bernard had more of a “wow” factor, then he likely would have been picked much earlier. A defender with a solid and steady game is perfectly fine for a mid-round draft selection. That Biech does not think he has a lot of upside means that perhaps Kerr’s thinking that he’s a potential top-four defenseman is too optimistic. But both do not deny he has a future. That’s A-OK for a mid-fourth round pick.
My Initial Reaction of the Pick
I like the pick for being a fourth rounder. Bernard showed improvement in major junior hockey going from his first to second year, as indicated by games played and points. I think if I dig a bit more, I expect to see further improvements. Still, the Devils did not have a lot of larger prospects in their system on defense. They got one. And based on the quick take by Kournianos and Kerr’s profile, he fits the type that the Devils have been going for: players who can skate well along with being good at something in particular. It remains to be seen how high his potential will be, but camp and another year or so in the ‘Q’ will bear that out.
As we update this post with more information later today, please have your say about Xavier Bernard in the comments. Do you think it was a good pick or not and why? What do you expect this player will become for the Devils? Of course, don’t forget to vote in our quick poll on the selection, which will end tonight at right before midnight. Thank you for reading.
The Devils drafted Xavier Bernard at 110th Overall. What do you think of the pick?
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