Xavier Bourgault scored twice on Monday night to show what he’s capable of for the Oilers, but it wasn’t enough to stop him being loaned to Bakersfield.
Monday night’s game versus the Seattle Kraken proved to be a positive experience for Xavier Bourgault. He recorded his first two points of the preseason — both goals — to help lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-1 win at Climate Pledge Arena.
The combination of Bourgault’s sure puck-handling, quick release and poachers instinct was on full display. No one doubts the potential, but seeing him actually show what he’s capable of on the ice gives plenty of cause for excitement.
Perhaps even more impressive, was what the 20-year-old did defensively. Scouts previously commented on how he needs to work on this area of his game and become more of a two-way player, as opposed to always thinking offence first.
Xavier Bourgault pleased with his effort
Bourgault was certainly pleased with his hard work and contribution on the night. As per Sportsnet‘s Mark Spector, he said:
"“I think I was involved in every area of the game. Defensively, on the penalty kill, and finding every area of the ice.”"
The 2021 22nd overall draft pick went on to explain his mindset at the moment. He said:
"“My confidence is a lot higher. I am making more plays. If you’re going to the net good things happen, and tonight I got rewarded for going to the blue paint.”"
So how about that roster spot with the Oilers?
The question was, did Bourgault’s performance on Monday night help his chances of making the Oilers opening night roster? Certainly it didn’t hurt his case, but it wasn’t quite as simple as that.
The reality is the Oilers’ philosophy is to take their time with their prospects. There was little to suggest they would change this approach with the young forward.
This prediction came to fruition literally as this article was originally being written. As per David Staples of the Edmonton Journal, Bourgault has been loaned to the Bakersfield Condors. (In addition, Seth Griffith and James Hamblin have been placed on waivers with the intention of being assigned to Bakersfield.)
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Oilers get it right
In respect of the decision, yes Bourgault was impressive on Monday night versus the Kraken. However, in fairness to the organization, it’s the first time he’d truly shone in the five preseason games he’d appeared in since training camp began.
In addition, the L’Islet, Quebec native has only played one season at the AHL level to date. He was intriguing enough during the 2022-23 campaign, but the majority of signs pointed towards him still needing more experience in Bakersfield to develop his game.
Certainly Bourgault impressed at times, with 34 points (13 goals and 21 assists) and a +10 plus/minus in 62 games. However, it can only benefit him to continue working on his game in the AHL and further improve his confidence.
Projections have Bourgault’s ceiling as being on either the second or third line in the NHL. As long as he is patient and continues to put in the work ethic he’s shown to date, he has an excellent chance of eventually winning a spot in the Oilers top six..