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Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report: A glimmer is still a glimmer for Xavier Bourgault

Edmonton Oilers Xavier Bourgault
Photo credit:twitter.com/Condors
Bruce Curlock
13 days ago
Make no mistake, Xavier Bourgault’s development path took a step back this year. He finished the season with fewer points than his rookie year. He finished the season with fewer shots on the net than his rookie year. His plus/minus worse. He went from the first powerplay to the second. He went from a relied-upon penalty killer to only seeing spot duty.
There is not anyway to sugar coat it, Xavier Bourgault did not have a good second professional season. To make matters worse, he missed more than a month with a shoulder injury. It would be hard to argue with those who view this first-round pick as a bust. Either by his play this year or by the play of those drafted after him: Wyatt Johnson, Matthew Knies and Logan Stankoven to name a few who have made impacts at the NHL level. However, this is still a prospect who is only 21 years old. He still is a high-skill player. He plays a position that could help the Edmonton Oilers.
So, this offseason is a critical one for Xavier Bourgault and for the Edmonton Oilers development program. Bourgault enters the final season of his entry-level contract in September 2024. It will be critical for him to take material steps forward for his NHL aspirations. It’s also critical for the Edmonton Oilers who will continue to face salary cap pressures for the foreseeable future. Fortunately for all, the last Bakersfield game of the AHL regular season may provide some material for both Bourgault and the Oilers to use to get Bourgault’s development back on track.
More on these rays of hope, the new kid who keeps scoring and all news and notes this week in the Edmonton Oilers Prospect Report.

Who Caught My Eye This Week?

Xavier Bourgault

Since missing five weeks with a shoulder injury, Bourgault has played four games. He has tallied 1-2-3 in those four games. Encouraging given Bourgault ended the season 8-12-20 in 55 games. For me, the focus is one game and one game only: the last of the season. No doubt the Edmonton Oilers development group saw the same things I saw and more. And no question, they have already cut the video of this game to use in the off-season work with Bourgault.
The game was a solid 5-3 win by Bakersfield. Of the four goals, Bourgault was on the ice and involved in four of them. He finished 1-1-2, although he should have been credited a second assist. He also had three shots on net and finished a plus three at 5v5 in the game. It was almost assuredly his best professional game in over a year. Bourgault flashed his elite puck skills all game.
Here is a clip of a play that has become less frequent, but one that Bourgault can execute routinely in a game. His close quarter puck skills remind me so much of Jordan Eberle, it’s scary.

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More encouraging was his ability to use these skills on the penalty kill again. Bourgault is actually very effective on the penalty kill because of his quick footwork and his stick skills. Watch this play last night to see how he operates on the penalty kill and then what he does when he creates a turnover.

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He also scored a goal that is far more reminiscent of his offence than people might think. Bourgault has no problem playing inside and taking punishment to make plays. Most of the 21 goals he has professionally look a lot like this one here. Watch how Bourgault keeps moving and working his way through checks. He is also very good at facing up the Condor with the puck and having his stick in a good spot.

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The clip that was most important to me was one in which he didn’t end up with a point (although he should have). It highlights everything that can make Bourgault a very good NHL player. Watch this shift and how he moves around the offensive zone. Notice how he always works through traffic to quiet spots. Also, look at his puck skills when being checked. Finally, notice where he ends up when the goal is scored. It is this clip that he should see once a day and twice on Sundays all off-season.

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Now, does one game turn his entire season around? Of course not. There are serious questions about his viability as an NHL prospect. However, Bourgault was a first-round pick and one that was a consensus amongst draft commentators. He also has one more year under his entry-level deal with the Oilers. Finally, the Oilers will continue to need young, cheap players to help fill their roster. Using this video, along with many other feedback loops, to help him understand how effective his game can be at the professional level is a must. For him and for the Oilers.

James Stefan

Stefan was already having a strong 20-year-old season when he signed with the Oilers. Since that time, however, his play has accelerated even further. His playoffs to date have been exceptional. His team, the Portland Winterhawks, have swept both of their series so far with Stefan leading the charge. He has gone 6-7-13 in eight games. Those totals place him 11th in WHL playoff scoring, but on a points-per-game average, he is sixth. Stefan has also amassed 42 shots in those eight games. Most impressively, he ranks sixth in plus/minus at plus 11 in the playoffs. This week, Stefan helped his team advance to the Western Conference Finals of the WHL by tallying 1-3-4 in two games with fifteen shots on net. His goal is one that is illustrative of what he does so well. Watch how Stefan works his way into a position, despite being checked, where he is facing up his teammate with the puck and his stick is free and in a good spot to attack the net. Then watch the quick hands.

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Despite all the goals and shots, Stefan’s skill as a playmaker is one that is both underrated and very important. Stefan is a smaller player and doesn’t have the quickest feet at this time. For him to have success at the next level, he will need to be more than a shooting threat as he gets stronger and quicker. He will need to give defenders pause in attacking him with abandon. Here is a clip from a recent power play that illustrates what he can do to help his cause. He is in constant motion, tracking the puck with his stick, always available in a good spot. When he receives the puck, he makes quick decisions that lead to positive results.

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Stefan’s rookie season professionally will be fascinating. No question he has legitimate offensive skills that make him intriguing. However, he will enter a Bakersfield Condor roster that has a lot of young, skilled wingers. Most of them have struggled to make their way to offensive success. To make an impact, Stefan will need to crack that code so he can separate himself from the competition.

Raphael Lavoie

Lavoie had another good week of play in the AHL. He went 1-1-2 in three games and had nine shots on net. His goal was typical for him, and it is almost comical how certain he is that he will score in these situations. Look at the casual nature with which Lavoie scores his 28th goal of the year.

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His 28th goal placed him 9th in AHL goal scoring for the season. More notably, Lavoie continues to show his commitment to his play off the puck, which is shown above in that goal. There is truly nothing left for Lavoie to prove at this level. Whether he gets a chance with the Oilers or another NHL team to assess his NHL capabilities is unknown. However, the Oilers have a need for a player like this going into next season.

Carter Savoie

Savoie didn’t have a particularly notable week except for one goal. The reason to mention Savoie is that his three-year entry-level deal expires this season. There should be legitimate concern about whether the Oilers renew Savoie to a contract. In Savoie’s professional career, he has played 109 games and totalled 18-15-33 in those games. Not great for a player known for his offensive prowess. More challenging is that Savoie is a hard player to coach. He has a lot of understanding of how to play the game. However, he can seem disinterested and to lack competition in any shift you may watch. That doesn’t mean he is disinterested or lacks competition. Many times, I think he understands when he can be effective in a play and when he is better at conserving energy. The problem with that is if you don’t score while doing this, you can end up sitting at the end of the bench. For the better part of two seasons, Savoie has seen 3rd and 4th line minutes mostly. He has almost never seen first-team powerplay minutes in his time in Bakersfield. He has populated the second unit some, but he has also not played on the powerplay at all.  All of this limits his ability to impact the game in the best way he can: score.
However, Savoie can score. It is literally the most intriguing aspect of his game and one that is most translatable to the NHL. His goal in the last regular season is typical of what makes Savoie intriguing.

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Does Savoie get a new contract? I don’t know. The Condors will be full of skilled wingers next season. With the signing of James Stefan, Savoie’s future becomes even murkier. What is certain is that Savoie has an NHL-translatable skill. Whether the rest of his game can get there, either with the Oilers or another team, remains uncertain.

News and Notes

Maxim Beryozkin and his Locomotiv teammates are in the KHL Championships this week. The team is down 0-2 to Metallurg Mg, and Locomotiv has only scored one goal in two games. That goal was scored by Beryozkin and is typical of his scoring prowess.

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Beryozkin is up to 5-10-15 in 18 playoff games, which is third in the KHL playoffs. Whether the Oilers can get this player over is in much doubt, but his game is one that should be of interest to Oiler fans.
Both Jake Chiasson and Marc Lajoie made their debuts with the Bakersfield Condors this week. Chiasson had a tough year in the ECHL and will need a good off-season to make the Condors next year. Lajoie is on a amateur tryout. I’d guess he heads to university next season to continue work on his game.
That’s it for this week folks. See you all next Sunday. Please send me feedback to @bcurlock on the X or right here below the article.

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