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Mavrik Bourque: 2020 Draft Profile: A Coldly Creative Center

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His game is collected, precise, and he isn’t afraid of the dirty areas.

Shawinigan Cataractes v Quebec Remparts
(Seen Right) Apparently not too afraid to mix it up.
Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images

Who Is Mavrik Bourque?: Mavrik Borque is a right-handed center playing for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. Throughout two seasons in major juniors, he has been a first-line center from the beginning - albeit on a very bad team last season. However, as the team improved around him, Bourque helped bring Shawinigan from a 14-49 record in 2018-19 to a 29-32 record before the season ended five games prematurely. Last season, Bourque was the second leading scorer on the team behind 20-year old Jan Drozg - in four more games played Bourque had eight fewer points. This season, Bourque is tied for the team lead in scoring - despite having played 14 fewer games than 17-year old Xavier Bourgault - who may be among the first rounders in next year’s draft.

Elite Prospects

While he is unafraid to play defense, Bourque is undersized. NHL Central Scouting has his height at 5’10.25” and his weight at 178 pounds. So compared to other Central Scouting measurements, he is smaller than other similarly ranked centers such as Dylan Holloway and Jack Quinn.

Where is he ranked?: Most draft rankings have him in the latter half of the first round, but there are a couple that have him going higher:

What others have said about him: Back in November, Mavrik Bourque was the NHL Prospect of November on the QMJHL website. Andre Oullet mentioned the common comparison to former Shawinigan winger Anthony Beauvilier - who went 28 overall in 2015 after scoring nine goals and 24 assists in 64 games in 2013-14, and 42 goals and 52 assists in 67 games in 2014-15. Oullet quoted his head coach:

I spoke with Daniel Renaud, Bourque’s head coach over with the Cataractes, and he had nothing but praise for his star player. “Mavrik has an exceptional hockey IQ. His vision allows him to be two or three seconds ahead of the play, both offensively and defensively. He always looks to make a difference and is highly effective both on the power play and on the penalty kill.”

This is good information to note about Bourque. He is not just an offensive talent - and that bodes well for his likelihood to be picked in at least the top 20 rather than the back end of the first round. After quoting Renaud, Oullet gave his take on Bourque’s game comparison:

Of course, Bourque reminds me of Anthony Beauvillier a little, but I think the player who looks most like him in the NHL right now is Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers. Both are right-handed, both are 5’10” and both weigh in about the same. They both seem to see the game in a similar way as well.

What I love most about today’s hockey is that it finally gives players like Konecny the chance to express themselves offensively. It’s not by chance that hockey has become more spectacular and much faster.

Admittedly, this comparison - regardless of who you look at - is not amazing in regards to two-way play. Both Beauvillier and Konecny (who went four picks above Beauvillier at 24 in 2015) struggled with defense upon their arrival to the NHL - though Beavillier was a negative possession influence on both ends in his rookie season. By now, however, both players have become relatively neutral to above average on defense at age 23, while Konecny is exploding offensively. Prior to the stoppage, Konecny had 24 goals and 37 assists in 66 games with 1,109 minutes of total ice time, while Beauvillier had 18 goals and 21 assists in 68 games with 1,174 minutes of total ice time.

Evolving-Hockey

On the whole, I think any team that drafts Bourque wouldn’t have to complain about drafting a player like Anthony Beauvillier or Travis Konecny - but there is a slight difference here. If he ends up more like the former, I would say those who rank him after the lottery were correct to do so. But if he ends up more like the latter, he would be a justifiable lottery pick.

At The Draft Analyst, which had him ranked 11, Steve Kourianos had this to say:

Bourque has a “wow” factor to his game. He may seem methodical in his approach, but you rarely see him rush or force a play without recognizing that the intent behind his decision was sound. At the January CHL Top Prospects Game, Bourque showed off his defensive-zone play, high-compete level and penalty-killing smarts. He was stealing pucks off the backcheck, winning battles along the boards and executing precision timing plays with one arm on his stick during a lengthy cycle in the Team Red end. The same can be said for his play for Team Canada at the August under-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, where he kept his motor running on high and created turnovers off the forecheck. He’s good on draws (over 50 percent), and if he sees time on the penalty kill it will usually be towards the end.

In addition to the abundant material showing Bourque’s offensive side, I chose to look at what Kourianos said about his defensive side. While it’s good that he has some experience on the penalty kill, he would likely have to be given some time to hone that skill in the AHL to be a reliable option in the NHL. If he is reliant on precise plays with his stick, it might lead to a lot of tripping and hooking calls in the NHL.

On Rotoworld, McKeen’s Hockey writer Brock Otten gave this appraisal of Bourque’s most recent performance.

Bourque is leading the team in scoring with his 71 points. His detailed game has improved; his faceoff percentage is five points better than last year, his defensive game has picked up, and he has found more ways to contribute away from the scoresheet. Most importantly, he is a force on even strength, where he has 45 points. That is a strong indicator of how well he can adapt to the pro ranks, when the ice tends to get smaller. The absence of Nussbaumer has given even more of the offensive reins to Bourque, and he has flourished, compiling a seven-point game last month.

Lastly, Tony Ferrari at Dobber Propsects did comparisons of the draft class in February.

Mavrik Bourque is the flashy, silky offensive star who comes with some risk...When Bourque is on, he is a treat to watch. You can marvel at his puck skills and command of the offensive game. He is shifty and highly skilled. He is a smooth skater who can gain speed in an instant. He is a fun player to watch and has you on the edge of your seat at times. Consistency is an issue at times as there are stretches where he leaves you wanting more.

Looking at these two takes on Bourque, I think it is good for his draft stock that people took notice of his improved defense. Had that not happened, I would expect more mentions of his scoring inconsistency. Because of his inconsistency and his abundance of playing time in the QMJHL since being selected by one of the worst teams in the league, I would expect him to need time in the AHL before he can be counted on to play a reliable game on both ends of the ice - though he might be good enough to make an offensive splash if he gets to play in the NHL at age 19 or 20.

Video Highlights: Since he is a QMJHL player, this video is in French - so for your viewing aid, Bourque is the right-handed shot wearing 22 in yellow or white.

When watching these videos, I try to take notice of where players are scoring from and how they create their chances since NHL competition tends to force good juniors players to adapt. I think that Bourque does take advantage of the relative lack of aggression in the defense - and he scores a few goals in the video when the opposition gives him too much space. The goal at 3:13, for example, might have been a play where Bourque would have been knocked down with a hit before he got the same shot off in the NHL.

But he does go to open space to shoot, and also doesn’t pass up on lanes for more dangerous shots. The video also shows how collected a passer he is, as he very smoothly sets up power play shots and goals throughout the video. The play he makes at 4:37 (at even strength) appeared Gusev-ian to me.

Lottery Dark-horse. or Late First Rounder?: I think that whoever ends up with Mavrik Bourque will end up dealing with some pushback, since he is undersized and seems a riskier pick than other early-round options. However, I’m sure their fans will end up loving his playmaking ability regardless, as he has the skating ability to make it work in the NHL. As long as he continues to get into the dangerous scoring areas, his propensity for getting the puck on net will help him get on the score sheet on the professional level.

His reputation for not shying away from the physical side of the game will also probably help him in the draft. There are multiple references to his ability to escape physical pressure along the boards and his willingness to play close to the net in the offensive zone. Because of these notes about his game, I think it is more likely than not that NHL coaches transition him to wing. This would also aid his defensive adjustment to professional hockey.

I think that if a team takes Bourque in the late lottery, they will be well-rewarded down the line - probably more so than some of the “safer” or need-based options that might be picked above him. In terms of the Devils’ picks - if they have the Vancouver pick he would be a good consideration for that selection. Using the Arizona pick would likely be a reach given other offensively-gifted players in the draft that might be closer to NHL contribution.

Given the Devils’ roster, picking him would almost certainly involve moving him to wing. From there, he would be able to feed off of the passing abilities of either Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes in two to four years. His willingness to watch a play develop rather than be the focal point of the offense at all times would help Bourque fit into the Devils’ forward group, since he is capable of making passes to other skilled teammates in the offensive zone that, say, Jack Hughes linemates might have been incapable of making this past season. The Devils don’t need more individual efforts - and Bourque would massively improve the hands and skill of the supporting cast of the Devils forwards.

Your Take: What do you think about Mavrik Bourque? Do you think he will be another undersized prospect that ends up being a huge scorer? Or do you think his lack of consistency will doom him? Where do you think he should end up being selected? Is he on your list of potential draft targets for the Devils? How would you feel if they selected him? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.