At the beginning of last season the Montreal Canadiens had a logjam at defense, and Yannick Weber was tearing the AHL to shreds over the first 6 weeks of the year. With Andrei Markov about to return from injury, and Alexandre Picard providing serviceable depth on defense but not having any trade value, the Canadiens felt it was time to move Ryan O'Byrne, who had shown flashes of excellent play mixed with a lot of inconsistency and confidence issues. O'Byrne's age and size are an appealing mixture so the Colorado Avalanche were willing to part with a player they had drafted only months before in Michael Bournival.
Bournival is the Mr. Nobody of the Canadiens system. In most situations acquiring a player with his potential would be considered a massively good deal, but as we all know; soon after O'Byrne was dealt Markov and Gorges were gone for the year, and the defensive depth of the Canadiens was decimated. This seemed to sour the outlook of many Habs fans on Bournival, in spite of him putting up back to back impressive seasons in the QMJHL.
Bournival is a great example of the depth available in the 2010 draft as he compares quite well to fellow Canadiens prospect Louis Leblanc who was a first rounder the year prior.
|Louis Leblanc||Michael Bournival|
Both players struggled with injury last year, and while Bournival but up slightly better offensive numbers, the underlying stats of shots and the newly counted "dangerous shots" or as most of us call them, scoring chances, show that Leblanc's extra year of experience would give him the edge as the better player. Leblanc also put up better defensive numbers with a +20 rating to Bournival's +4 and seems to be more rugged, tallying 100 PIM to Bournival's 28. Both players are 6'0 tall but Bournival is stockier at 187lbs to Leblanc's 178lbs. Both players did the lion's share of their scoring at even strength.
While Leblanc made the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championship U20 team last year and acquitted himself very well, Bournival was the final cut from camp, which is still very impressive for an 18 year old player. Leblanc was similarly cut as an 18 year old, so now it is Bournival's time to shine at the popular tournament. The similarities between the two with Bournival being a year younger is a very good sign of Michael's potential to be an NHL player.
STRENGTHS: Perhaps most fitting considering the direction Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey have gone in the last two years, Bournival is the captain of his junior team, the Shawinigan Cataractes. A natural leader, scouts laud his hustle and no-quit attitude. Bournival is a winner and willing to do anything it takes to get there. Bournival is a 200 foot player, which should also put him into good graces with the Canadiens organization as they expect all forwards to play a complete game.Bournival has been being used by the Cataractes against the opposition's best lines since he was 17 years old.
At the Team Canada U20 summer camp, it was clear that Bournival had stepped it up a level from last year. Several scouts for Hockey Canada noted that Bournival was the fastest player on the ice for either team, doggedly chasing down loose pucks in all three zones on a line with fellow Habs prospect Brendan Gallagher. Chris Boucher's report on the intersquad game that was available on a stream supports these conclusions as he had the best risk/reward rating of all three Canadiens prospects in the game. He seems to be on the inside track to win a spot and showcase himself this Christmas.
Bournival isn't a small player, but he isn't big either. In spite of this he brings a well rounded physical game and isn't afraid to get knocked around.
As an 18 year old it is quite impressive that Bournival was among the QMJHL's elite faceoff men. As he matures and gets a bit stronger this could be a very strong part of his game.
WEAKNESSES: Durability is a concern with Bournival as he does play a reckless style. He has yet to crack the 60 game mark in three years in the QMJHL. In order to hit that mark this season he would need to have a completely healthy year if he makes Team Canada.
Despite putting up some good numbers in the QMJHL the last two years, scouts are hesitant about his overall talent level. It is said that most of his production comes from hard work instead of skills. While this isn't necessarily a knock on Bournival, in order to be a top 6 forward in the NHL it is usually expected that you are considered an elite level junior talent. It may be that Bournival's natural ability has him suited more to be an elite level 3rd line center instead of a top 6 guy.
FUTURE: One more junior year in Shawinigan will allow Bournival to further hone his game. It is likely that his defensive game will take a bit a leap this year as he's now at a greater physical maturity than most of the QMJHL.
The Habs will likely be looking for Bournival to make Team Canada as a bottom 6 forward this winter, hopefully making an impact and coming away brimming with confidence.
After his junior career is over it will be on to Hamilton most likely for Bournival, as he attempts to once again follow in Leblanc's footsteps while possible nipping at his heels. The more I watch the two players the more I'm convinced that Bournival is nearly a clone who's left handed instead of right handed. Leblanc however is a far superior natural goal scorer. It is quite possible that within 2 years Bournival will be fighting for a spot on the Habs.
|#13: Ryan White||#12: Michael Bournival||#11: Alexander Avtsin|