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Alternative knocks at RW for Edmonton Oilers' #1 prospect, although it's apt to take some time

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2023 Edmonton Oilers prospects
#1 Xavier Bourgault

Beforehand: #4 in 2022

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4 weeks have handed since we started our annual countdown of Edmonton Oilers’ prospects with #27 Jeremias Lindewall, and in the present day we arrive with bated breath at “first at school”. In 2023 high honours go to RW Xavier Bourgault who up to now 12 months vaulted from the #4 rating to #1 with out passing a dwelling soul. To his credit score, he didn’t get handed, both.

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Each of these outcomes have been pretty predictable given occasions elsewhere on the roster, a lot of which have been pretty predictable themselves. The primary being that the highest three prospects from the category of 2022 all graduated to the NHL, the place every of Philip BrobergDylan Holloway and Stu Skinner every performed round 50 video games. We now contemplate them NHLers, not prospects.

Nor was it stunning that Bourgault himself did not make an identical leap. The “late birthday” that made him one of many oldest of his draft class in 2021 served to make him one of many youngest of the turning-pro group of 2022-23 after only one extra 12 months of main junior post-draft. He was simply 19 in camp and within the opening days of the AHL season, the place he was fairly clearly ticketed as per Ken Holland’s grasp plan.

Certainly, all of Broberg, Holloway and Skinner had executed related in earlier seasons, with the primary two of these being Holland’s prior two first-round picks earlier than Bourgault. Different first-rounders from the Peter Chiarelli period, Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto, received despatched out within the fall of 2019 a.ok.a. Holland’s first camp. This after each had (briefly) made the large membership out of camp the 12 months earlier than. The message was clear.

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Whereas that kind of overview maybe higher belongs in tomorrow’s sequence wrap, it applies particularly sufficient to Xavier Bourgault to say right here. The #22 decide in 2021 was Oilers’ lowest within the first spherical since Yamamoto went at the very same quantity 4 years earlier. Yam began every of the subsequent two seasons within the NHL, proving to be not-quite-ready every time and getting despatched out in mid-season. Solely in Holland’s first 12 months on the helm did the participant begin within the AHL, then transfer up versus the opposite manner spherical.

So it was definitely predictable that Bourgault would apprentice within the excessive minors for some time. Certainly we predicted it on this area a 12 months in the past:

  • Expectations for 2022-23: Present up at rookie camp totally recovered from his bodily points and make his greatest case. Doubtless destined for Bakersfield, the place because the projected youngest participant on the workforce he’ll face loads of competitors for ice time. First purpose is to ascertain an everyday spot someplace within the line-up, ideally the highest 9, whereas he will get his toes moist enjoying towards males. Work on rounding out his recreation away from the puck whereas demonstrating his expertise with it to earn elevated alternatives, with an NHL recall the last word purpose.

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That NHL recall stays the target. It didn’t happen a season in the past, partially as a result of Edmonton’s one critical damage bug at ahead — when all of Yamamoto, Evander Kane, Warren Foegele and Ryan McLeod have been out concurrently — occurred too early within the season for the greenhorn to be thought of.

Had that very same circumstance transpired in, say, March, presumably he would have gotten a glance. His recreation definitely confirmed indicators of progress and growing maturity as he carved out a task in Bakersfield’s high 9 as hoped. In the long term he hopes to do the identical in Edmonton, a squad that continues to be in critical want of fine, younger, low cost help gamers.

That’s skinny gruel for the group’s #1 prospect, the long-term reader would possibly grumble. Truth is that this former first-round decide confirmed good, measurable progress whereas the others within the system both moved up (Broberg, Holloway) or received moved out (Reid Schaefer plus the then-future 2023 first rounder).

Then there have been the dual trades of Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto, the final two right-wingers to be drafted excessive by the Oil. These strikes didn’t have an effect on the prospects listing apart from the chance their joint departures open up for an additional good younger RW. So in additional methods than one, XB finds himself in the precise place on the proper time.

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First-hand observations

I “noticed him good” in rookie camp, and promising sufficient within the 2 preseason video games he performed, each wins over the Winnipeg Jets. Because it occurred, it was my flip to report each occasions:

  • Xavier Bourgault confirmed some glorious puck expertise in tight quarters. 4 shot makes an attempt and 1 good steal.
  • Bourgault made some good delicate performs in tight quarters alongside the partitions. Made a affected person set of strikes by the excessive slot earlier than firing a superb low shot that examined Hellebuyck. Made a superb steal on the forecheck, and immediately discovered Hamblin cruising within the slot with a fast go. However twice wasted powerplay rushes with a poor deal with on the blueline. Acquired on the tip of Benson’s lob go however couldn’t clear up Hellebuyck.

It was zero shock when he received despatched out shortly thereafter, the logical and predictable resolution.

In watching the Condors considerably sparingly final season, I used to be usually impressed with what I noticed of this participant. A mid-November recreation sparked this remark:

  • Bourgault was very alert on the puck deep within the o-zone, making a handful of half-chances. His anticipation and fast stick are amongst his greatest weapons, and his efficient quick passes allow him to work nicely together performs with teammates. Made a nifty steal simply inside his personal blueline. Had a good shot from the slot halfway within the third. Seems to be adapting nicely to the professional recreation.

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Not the primary time I used to be impressed with Bourgault’s play in tight quarters, particularly his fast and efficient puck motion. That was a standout talent in junior as nicely, and took him all the best way to the Memorial Cup the place he performed his closing video games as an newbie hockeyist.

By the numbers

Bourgault db

The Bako boxcars don’t precisely encourage hope that that is some type of offensive whiz child, however they’re precisely the jolt of actuality that many aspiring younger execs bear after they take that subsequent step. In Edmonton we will particularly evaluate Bourgault’s AHL debut to different “late birthday” picks within the #20-40 ranges who turned professional of their Draft +2 seasons.

  • Tyler Pitlick was Edmonton’s #31 decide in 2010. He was force-fed to the AHL as a part of a trio of huge, gifted teenaged forwards (additionally Curtis Hamilton and Ryan Martindale), all of whom struggled to make that step. Pitlick noticed his boxcars crash from 62 factors in 56 video games within the WHL in his Draft +1 marketing campaign to simply 23 factors in 62 video games as a rookie professional. Bedevilled by accidents, it took some time earlier than he emerged as a helpful NHL participant; now at 386 GP and counting.
  • Though Yamamoto’s growth curve is somewhat warped because of the org’s repeated makes an attempt to hurry him, in chunks of two AHL seasons he mustered 34 factors in 50 video games. Slightly below 0.7 per recreation: first rate, however a far cry from the 1.6 P/GP he averaged his final two years of junior. Now he too is an NHL veteran with 244 video games of expertise.
  • Ryan McLeod is one other late birthday, drafted at #40 total in 2018.  He managed simply 23 factors in 56 video games as an AHL rookie in his Draft +2 marketing campaign after being a gradual point-per-game man within the OHL. Three years later he’s an up-and-coming NHLer with 138 video games of expertise at 23.

This simply in: the AHL is a troublesome league. Even good younger gamers of sturdy (not elite) draft pedigree who’re NHL-bound are hard-pressed to ship rather more than 0.5 P/GP of their inaugural season. Bourgault (0.55) was proper in that vary.


A stable plus participant his final three years of junior, XB Pencil continued that development as a rookie professional with a really respectable +10. A glance beneath the floor exhibits that he encountered some heavy waters early, survived them, then thrived.

Splitting his season into three segments:

  • First 20 GP: 7-4-11, -1
  • Second 20 GP: 2-6-8. -2
  • Final 22 GP: 4-11-15, +13

Scoring was somewhat higher that final phase, however have a look at that plus!

No person research minor league purpose share fairly like Allan “Lowetide” Mitchell, the prolific native blogger and sports activities radio host who as coincidence has it returns to the airwaves in the present day on a brand new native sports activities platform, Sports activities 1440.

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With the help of the estimable Eric Rodgers, Mitchell has for some years periodically printed on his Lowetide weblog, purpose shares and estimated ice time for farm system gamers. In a single July submit, Mitchell identified that Bakersfield scored 60% of the 5v5 objectives with the teen on the ice — greatest on the workforce — however simply 50% when he wasn’t. In one other, that the majority of that outscoring got here within the latter a part of the season, with the Condors outscoring their opposition by a nifty 22-10 margin with XB on the ice over the season’s closing 28 video games. By that point he had labored his manner on to a highly-effective line with fellow prospects Raphael Lavoie and the since-retired Noah Philp.

Scouting report by Ira Cooper

I requested the Cult of Hockey‘s resident Condors observer Ira “Unique Pouzar” Cooper for his evaluation of Bourgault’s play in 2022-23. Certainly one of our 5 voting panelists (with David Staples, Kurt Leavins, Jim Matheson, and this author), Ira supplied this detailed report:

  • By means of the prospect sequence right here on the Cult of Hockey, the reader has been supplied with a sample that offered itself final season in Bakersfield. Coach Chaulk exhibiting some “powerful love” to the youthful prospects, requiring them to earn his belief together with ice time and better leverage deployment. All of Ty Tullio, Carter Savoie and Noah Philp began their seasons down the lineup and all a while within the press field as wholesome scratches.

    This sample didn’t apply to Xavier Bourgault who began the season within the high 6 and with particular groups time. Whereas Bourgault positively had his rookie struggles by the season and was moved down the lineup at occasions, he was by no means wholesome scratched. Maybe his rope was longer on account of being probably the most extremely touted of the “rookie execs” as a former first spherical decide, however I might recommend that a part of it was that he hit the bottom operating and was an impactful participant very early within the season.

    In reality, he noticed time on the penalty kill very early on and excelled, incomes himself a full-time function on the unit.  He was fast at breaking apart performs and sensible recognizing and shutting lanes. He even scored two (beautiful!) shorthanded objectives early within the season.

    Shorties however, Bourgault is extra of a puck distributor than a purpose scorer. He doesn’t posses a shot that may beat goalies from distance fairly often. He does have a “nostril for the web” and is prepared to battle within the onerous areas to attain objectives – he did rating 36 objectives (and 75 factors) in solely 43 video games in his closing season in junior. 

    Oilers followers needs to be enthusiastic about his excessive finish puck expertise. He’s an excellent stickhandler (together with in small areas) with the endurance to hold on to pucks to create lanes which, mixed with excessive finish imaginative and prescient and offensive hockey sense, culminates in an elite puck distributor. 

    I wrote about Tullio and his motor and that’s an attribute we will allocate to Bougault as nicely. He doesn’t cease shifting within the offensive zone, continues to battle and makes use of good edges on the boards to pivot and keep within the play and has a superb 2-way head for the sport – sensible positionally because the workforce retreats and causes the opposition to show the puck over on the breakout. 

    Bourgault was a 60% purpose share participant at 5 on 5 final season and the workforce was higher with him on the ice than with out – mix that with the coach trusting him on the PK early and sometimes and we have now participant that could be very accountable early in his professional profession. 

    It was a stable growth 12 months however Bourgault seems to wish extra time. He suffered the pitfalls that befall many rookie execs within the AHL: inconsistency, each inside video games but in addition from recreation to recreation. He had some stretches the place the rigours of the professional recreation seemingly caught up with him and he hit a wall. A part of that was doubtless damage associated as he missed substantial time after taking a really soiled hit mid-season. He struggled coping with the physicality of the AHL recreation – not on account of his unwillingness to compete and battle however his stature and power. These are regular points from younger, expert, however non-elite prospects as they get used to the professional recreation. One hopes that Bourgault had a really sturdy low season getting stronger and dealing in his conditioning and the power to deal with larger and powerful gamers, shift after shift.

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Expectations for 2023-24: Oilers prospects group options 4 right-shot wingers within the high 5, however for 2 years in a row Bourgault has been judged as the most effective of that group. His job now’s to separate somewhat, to compete onerous for a job with the large membership at camp and to maintain proper on competing for it from wherever he lands. Unlikely to start out the season in Edmonton, however can put himself within the dialog for an in-season recall if the large membership wants a high 9 fill. He’s additionally not proof against being traded for extra rapid assist, as was Schaefer earlier than him. Within the Oilers Go For It Period, “#1 prospect” doesn’t carry the type of long-term job safety it as soon as did.

Cult of Hockey prospect sequence rankings

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