Just as Mavrik Bourque was preparing to return from a wrist injury, the QMJHL season was suspended, keeping Bourque from making a final impression before the NHL Draft. Bourque is a prospect with high upside but a wide range of opinions on his game.
Birthplace: Plessisville, Quebec
Date of birth: January 8, 2002
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
In his first QMJHL season, Bourque had 25 goals and 29 assists in 64 games. In 49 games in his final season, he had 29 goals and 42 assists upping his production. His 71 points were tied for the team lead, despite playing 14 fewer games than Xavier Bourgault, who he was tied with. His 71 points, despite missing time, was 20th among all QMJHL players.
He also represented Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup where he had one assist in five games playing in a fourth line role.
Most scouts will agree that Bourque is among the smartest players in the entire draft. His hockey sense is his biggest asset. He not only makes the right play with the puck in the offensive zone, but he can make plays that no one else even sees.
He has the ability to deceive defenders, leaving them wondering what he will do at all times. He’s able to make plays with his exceptional passes that are accurate more often than not, and he has a shot that can be unleashed at any point.
Bourque quite simply runs the offence in Shawinigan despite being in his first draft year. The only first-year draft eligible forward with more ice time in the QMJHL was Alexis Lafreniere, according to InStat Hockey. The Cataractes were not a very good team and there’s no doubt that Bourque was their best offensive player.
There was a game on February 1 where the Cataractes had seven goals and Bourque had seven points.
He’s able to deceive defenders and create space for himself because he is able to make plays by passing and by shooting. On the power play, he runs things even if he doesn’t play in the typical quarterback position. He can play on the left half-wall and has a shot that needs to be respected and also has the ability to feather passes to teammates for easy goals.
We mentioned his ice-time, and that comes with more responsibility than just running the offence. His power play prowess may be the money maker, but he’s equally successful on the penalty kill where his smarts allow him to take advantage of opportunities.
While his skating isn’t bad, it’s not necessarily a strength either. Scouts aren’t worried about his ability to move at the next level, but some feel he lacks the strength in his stride.
Luckily that is something that can be handled. Aside from adding strength to his lower body, scouts feel that he could add more muscle to his frame to help him adjust to the professional game. He’s not easy to knock off the puck as it stands, and scouts even point out how slippery he can be off checks, but it is a question that some scouts have.
Some scouts do think that he can be successful on the penalty kill, but other scouts have no belief in his defensive game at all. There is speculation that his inconsistency in the defensive zone is because he knew he needed energy to lead his team offensively, but at the same time there are scouts who compare him to Phillip Danault.
In truth, the reality is likely in the middle but most agree that his high hockey IQ doesn’t simply disappear in the defensive zone.
As good as he is offensively, there are some weaker points to his offensive game. He’s not the type of player to go through entire teams with the puck on his stick. He doesn’t have that kind of high end puck handling and skating ability. However, he can make up for that by creating his own space and his ability to see the play in front of him is unique.
Elite Prospects: #13
Future Considerations: #19
Hockey Prospect: #28
McKeen’s Hockey: #22
NHL Central Scouting: #22 (North American skaters)
Bourque is firmly in the range in the middle of the first round where people have varying opinions of all of the prospects involved and his draft position will likely be determined by how teams feel not only about his game but about those around him in that range.
There is little doubt that Bourque’s upside is that of a top-six centre in the NHL. His offensive ability is so good that he can very well be a player many wonder why he was taken as late as he was. Perhaps the best thing you can say about Bourque is that the weakest points of his game are not as much weaknesses as they are not as strong as his strengths.
When a young player takes a team on his back like Bourque, sometimes that can lead to bad habits, but despite being on a poor team, his +/- was only a -4. Considering how much playing time he got, it’s fair to think the reactions to his defensive game are slightly exaggerated.
Shawinigan made a coaching change around the same time as Bourque suffered his injury, and should be a better team in the 2020-21 season.
He made Team Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup not to be a top six scorer, but to be a fourth line depth player with some penalty kill responsibilities. That shows that he has the ability to play both ends of the ice, and that he can be versatile.
Bourque will likely never be nominated for a Selke trophy, but his defensive game is not a liability and you simply cannot ignore the offence he can bring. When a player’s highlight reel is over 11 minutes long despite missing 14 games with an injury, you know that there’s a lot to like about the player.
As you can see by the percentiles in the above chart, the offensive traits stick out and while the defence takes a step back, he rates out as an above average defender.
There are a lot of forwards expected to be taken in the middle of the first round, and Bourque’s talents stick out in a positive light when compared to those around him.