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Xavier Bourgault: 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile; A Smooth Scoring Winger Out of the QMJHL

Xavier Bourgault is a winger with great upside as a scorer and playmaker and seems to have the shot and the vision to make an impact at the next level. His skating and defense represent some question marks, though, making him a common sight for any team in the market for scoring talent beyond the top of the first round.

Photo via Shawinigan Cataractes

Who is Xavier Bourgault?

Xavier Bourgault is a forward with major scoring potential who has played his last three seasons with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. With his October 2002 birth date, Bourgault will be among the older first-year eligible players in this draft, which also helps explain his three full CHL seasons to this point. Bourgault has built upon his scoring rates each season in the QMJHL, starting out in a smaller role in his rookie season as a 16-year-old and growing into a team scoring leader for Shawinigan by his 18-year-old season, where he put up 20 goals and 40 points in 29 games. In terms of size, Bourgault is middle-of-the-road (if a bit slight right now) for a forward, checking in at 6’-0” and 172 pounds, per his Elite Prospects page.

Xavier Bourgault career stats

Bourgault has played a bit of center, but he projects pretty solidly as a winger at the next level, given the relative strengths and weaknesses of his game. His shot is among his best tools and his accuracy in particular seems strong. He is an excellent playmaker, both as a passer and a player who can find soft spots without the puck on offense. As a skater, he is fine, but seems to lack some agility when moving laterally. The biggest ding on his game is probably his shaky defense, where he seems to get himself burned sometimes. In general, Bourgault has plenty of upside as a scoring winger at the next level but does need to clean some things up to get NHL-ready.

Where is Xavier Bourgault Ranked?

As with many of the prospects in this year’s draft, there is plenty of variation on where Borgault fits into the rankings, but there does seem to be something of a consensus (with a couple exceptions) that he is a mid-to-late first round pick, with most of the sources below putting him in the 15-25 range.

What Others Say About Xavier Bourgault

We’ll start with a quick summary of what Bourgault is about from Steve Kournianos at The Draft Analyst. Here’s what he had to say about Xavier Bourgault in his final rankings in May:

A exceptional stickhandler with buttery-soft hands and a quick-strike mentality, Bourgault (pictured) has to be in the running for the flashiest wingers available in the draft. He’s a low-maintenance threat who proved he can be just as dangerous without top center Mavrik Bourque running possessions.

Over at Smaht Scouting, we can get a deeper dive into Bourgault’s game and some of his assets and weaknesses as a player. John Tessler put together this report on Bourgault and is not necessarily super high on his skating, criticizing his wide stride and lateral mobility a bit. It doesn’t come across as a huge liability in the profile but is also not considered a high point of his game. His shot, as you might expect from his numbers, is among his best assets, specifically when it comes to placement:

Bourgault has solid range on his shot and is a threat in high and medium danger. The Quebecer loves draining one-timers and does a great job at elevating his shot. He can go top shelf from the low slot/door-step and all the way out at the perimeter. Bourgault can pick his corners with ease and tends to favor shooting at the blocker side, but will attack the glove side as well. His snap shot is very smooth and has a solid release.

Beyond being able to shoot the puck, part of a scorer’s talent is being able to find the right spots and Bourgault can apparently do that in spades up and down the ice:

Bourgault does a tremendous job at finding open ice. But, he doesn’t just apply that ability to his offensive zone play. He will use it in all three zones. Bourgault will pin point open ice in the neutral zone or in the defensive zone to help initiate a breakout. The strategy for Bourgault is always on the hunt for open ice to help with his team’s transitional play.

But, we can’t forget to mention how crucial his ability to find open ice is in the offensive zone. He uses his vision to understand player movements and find gaps to exploit. For example, check out the clip below, in which he skates unnoticed behind three attackers and gives his teammate an option in the low slot.

Finding seams without the puck and then capitalizing when you get it is about all one can ask from a scorer. Tessler has some more criticisms of Bourgault’s game in the profile, specifically his troubles protecting the puck on the attack and also a generally lackluster defensive game. Overall, the assessment is that Bourgault can be a dynamic scoring winger if he reaches his potential.

Moving along, we head to this profile from Ben Kerr at Last Word on Sports, where the mixed review of Bourgault’s skating echoes that of the Smaht Scouting profile. An excerpt:

Bourgault’s skating is hit and miss. His first few steps and acceleration are good. He also has good top-end speed when moving in a straight line. He wins races to loose pucks, gets in quick on the forecheck and moves well through the neutral zone. However, Bourgault needs to work on his edgework and agility. He loses speed when changing directions or moving laterally.

Elsewhere, Kerr praises Bourgault’s work ethic on the ice, particularly for his game on the attack, where he is touted as strong handler of the puck who will chase down opportunities and use his plus shooting to finish them. Additionally, Bourgault’s playmaking earns him high marks:

Bourgault is an outstanding playmaker. He is strong on the puck in the cycle game moving the puck with quick passes and then finding open ice for the give and go. Bourgault finds open space without the puck. He has excellent vision and anticipation, seeing what his teammates will do before they do it and getting them the puck for a scoring chance. Bourgault can put the puck through tight areas, making saucer passes over sticks, or using his hands to quickly move defenders and open up a passing lane.

So the offensive game is definitely there in a number of different ways, but Kerr is similarly lukewarm on Bourgault’s defensive game, which includes too much risk-taking and flying the zone in anticipation of transition opportunities. Standard criticisms for a lot of scoring winger-type prospects, but something he’ll need to work on to become a more reliable player.

Finally, we can go to Dobber Prospects, where Tony Ferrari provided an assessment of Bougault in the winter. The overall evaluation reads a lot like the others. An excerpt:

He shows the ability to find space regularly and settle into zones in the offensive zone. He has a knack for settling between defenders which gives him a bit of time and space to do work offensively. There are times where his skating could be a bit stronger but his overall mobility relies on timing and reading his opponents rather than blazing by them. He can be a wizard on the powerplay and make some impressive passes through the slot. Understanding what his opponent wants to do defensively and proactively working to combat that, 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.

So based on the available profiles, you can get a good idea what a team drafting Bourgault might expect, which is a excellent scorer and playmaker with generally average skating and a defensive game that probably isn’t disastrous but also isn’t likely to add a ton of value.

A Little Video

An Opinion of Sorts

The Devils are a team that can always use a good scoring winger and there isn’t really a much better way to describe how Bourgault projects as a prospect. He has the vision, the shot, and the creativity to serve as a nice supporting piece in some team’s top six. In watching the video out there, I do get the criticisms of his kind of funky stride and wide base, but good vision and anticipation can make up for a lot even if you are only an average skater. The defensive game is also a bit of a concern, but it doesn’t seem like a total lost cause and if he can round it into serviceable form, he strikes me as a potential Kyle Palmieri-type with better playmaking chops in the future. Whether he will be my preferred selection for the Devils at the back of the first will, of course, depend on who is available, but he’s likely to be in the mix for me if he’s still around by the time the Devils are back on the clock.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Xavier Bourgault? Is he the type of player you think the Devils might be looking for if they go for defense at the top of the first round? How do you rate him against other players in the mix for the late first round? Comment with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.