Young Stars The Day After 3.0: Edmonton Oilers rookies Xavier Bourgault and Carter Savoie finish strong

Photo credit:Edmonton Oilers
Bruce Curlock
7 months ago
Coming into the tournament, my expectation was Xavier Bourgault would have a strong tournament on the scoresheet. He had a year of AHL experience where he posted solid numbers for a 20-year-old after a very strong final year in the QMJHL.
Through two games Bourgault was noticeable but still had little to show for his efforts. The final game of the tournament was Bourgault’s best and, while he only registered one assist, I have more reason for optimism about his future in the NHL. So why does a first-round pick who only had two assists in three games, get that type of praise? Let’s take a look in our review of the game the day after.

What Did I See?

Xavier Bourgault

Bourgault will always draw eyeballs because he has excellent offensive skills. He makes spectacular plays that lead to great chances and goals in most games. This game was no exception. Look at this cross-ice pass to Carl Berglund who tucks the puck home. Bourgault’s vision and split-second decision-making in the offensive is really quite high. It is a set of skills that I think will show better with higher-skill players who think the game and see the ice like Bourgault.

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However, what was more interesting to me was Bourgault’s ability to manage the play physically. This was a pretty constant theme last year in the AHL where he was manhandled quite often. This tournament displayed a very determined Bourgault. Here was an example from the game against the Canucks where he sprints to force a loose puck and then goes hard to the net to generate an offensive attack. There was little fear in Bourgault’s game this weekend, nor any unwillingness to play in the tougher areas of the ice.

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Even more impressively, Bourgault does look and play stronger than he did last year. Often when he would possess the puck on the wall, he would be easily separated from the puck by stronger players. This weekend Bourgault did not suffer that same fate very often. Here is a great example of what I saw most of the weekend.

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He uses his body to create space which is takes advantage of using his quick feet and stick. He never gets pinned up on the wall and ultimately, the Canucks are forced to haul him down creating a powerplay for the Oilers. There were lots of examples of this type of play over the course of the four-day event and I believe it bodes well for Bourgault.

Carter Savoie

Savoie is always going to be a tough prospect to evaluate. He has some lethargic elements in his game that will certainly cause issues with his coaches. However, he also has this innocuous way of being in the right place at the right time and doing good things when he is there. The encouraging part of today’s game is there was less of a negative element to his play, which combined nicely with what he does well for a very strong finishing game for Savoie.
I remain quite convinced that Savoie can be a very effective player off the puck. He skates quite well. Despite his size, he has a good frame and he definitely will mix it up. Most important. He has a great stick to cause possession changes. When he is determined and doing those things, there is lots to like. Here is a great example from this weekend.
On this play, Savoie starts by getting a nice shot away that doesn’t find the mark. What I like after the shot is that he doesn’t loop around in the opposite direction and come back to the middle. He stays focused on the puck and moves over to support the forecheck. When the puck starts moving up ice, he doesn’t quit but instead hounds the puck carrier until the puck is turned over and the Oilers gain control.

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Again, this is a super small play in the course of the game, but it will garner the coach’s trust in the player. In addition, more possession time for Savoie’s line is almost always going to be a good thing for Savoie.
In terms of the right place, and right time skill from Savoie, it showed up today and led to a goal. It is quite uncanny how he finds this space and the puck seems to gravitate to him. Watch the confident finish off a great forecheck by De Jong who feeds him the puck in a great spot.

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Savoie will be fascinating to watch this year because there are skills there that are NHL-worthy. Whether the whole package is there is what we will find out soon.

Maximus Wanner

Maximus Wanner reminds me so much of Nicolas Hague it is not even funny. The size, skating stride, defensive play and how he handles the puck are all quite similar. Wanner has played a very solid tournament. Today was nothing different. Here is a simple example of how he recovers on defence from a stretch pass to lock his man down forcing him to stall the attack and wait for support.

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Nothing fancy, but just good strong defensive play. Here is another ideal clip from Wanner. His man gets the puck in the corner and Wanner simply gets into his hip and hands with his body. The puck pops loose and Wanner isolates his man on the boards so Berglund can gain possession and the puck heads back up the ice for an offensive attack.

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He’s such a sound defensive hockey player. However, I do think there is offensive skill there as well. The staff does too. Wanner ran PP2 all weekend and often that group showed as well or better than PP1. Wanner had an assist on the powerplay earlier in the tournament. Today, we saw a bit more from Wanner at evens offensively. Watch this clip of some of his offensive skill. The first part is on the wall. He remains patient and keeps scanning for options because he is not getting attacked. Finally, he makes a sneaky little saucer pass to Tullio. The play continues until Wanner gets the puck up top with space. This is the part of his game that excites me. Watch him attack downhill right to the net for a chance. He is very calm and poised with the puck moving forward. His size and reach will help him beat players a lot.

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Will Wanner’s offensive skills continue to develop? Not sure, but there is a foundation there to build upon for certain.
That’s a wrap for game three of the Young Stars Classic. I will be back tomorrow with a tournament summary and then it is on to training camp. Thanks for reading and please send your feedback below or to @bcurlock on the X.

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