Simon Bourque was an intriguing sixth-round pick in 2015 when the Montreal Canadiens drafted him. He was always seen as an offensive-minded defenceman, and seems to have grown into his role.
His points total increased every season, setting a new high in his final year of junior hockey with 56 points despite playing in only 59 games. He added 13 points in 18 playoff games after a mid-season trade from Rimouski to Saint John, and got a chance to play in the Memorial Cup as a member of the QMJHL championship team.
After trading Mikhail Sergachev and Nathan Beaulieu, Bourque is the most dynamic offensive defenceman in the system. He can jump in the rush and contribute to the offence, but it will be interesting to see how his game translates at the professional level.
Bourque received most votes in the top 25, with only two panellists putting him outside. The majority placed him in the 15-20 range, with a high vote of 14 and a low of 30.
Top 25 Under 25 History
|2015: #30||2016: #21|
After being a sixth-round pick in 2015, Bourque debuted at #30. Last year, he moved up to 21st before making another leap this summer.
As the Canadiens added several defencemen to the system this year, and Bourque is making his full-season professional debut, this season will be significant in how he fits into the organization going forward.
Bourque is not only a capable offensive contributor; he is dynamic. He will start plays from the back end thanks to great passing and rush ability, but his play without the puck holds just as much talent.
When you watch him play, he has the ability to score from anywhere on the ice, and can sometimes act as a fourth forward.
This was on display during Canadiens development camp, when the games were played at four-on-four. He was clearly above the rest of the prospects there, and his ability to join the play in the offensive zone was a treat to see.
Among all QMJHL defencemen, Bourque was sixth in primary points per game (among players with at least 30 games). While he relied on power-play scoring previously in his career, his statistics this past year were very consistent. He was in the top six in both five-on-five scoring and five-on-four scoring for defencemen, and among those ahead of him, none were drafted after round three. He had 26 points at five-on-five, 16 of which were primary points (seven goals, nine primary assists).
Like most defenceman who are so involved in the offensive zone, he has question marks defensively and not all of those are legitimate.
Last year, he was among the best defencemen in the QMJHL in terms of percentage of total on-ice goals his team scores when he’s on the ice. At over 61%, he ranked 19th among QMJHL defencemen with at least 30 games despite playing a major role against top competition. When you calculate his performance relative to his team, he jumps up to fourth.
With all of his offensive contributions, he doesn’t hurt his team on the other end of the ice, and often swings the game in his side’s favour.
The biggest question for Bourque will be how his game translates to the professional level. While he managed to have success in the junior ranks, the AHL — let alone the NHL — is a completely different ball game.
The good news is that Bourque has already played three games in the AHL at the end of the 2015-16 season, earning an assist. Now that sample size isn’t enough to say how he’ll perform in a full season, but he won’t be shocked by the change in pace of the game as he’s been there before. He will likely get some NHL pre-season action as well.
At 6’0” and 183 pounds, Bourque is not a one-dimensional player who will necessarily be pushed around by bigger players. Having said that, his defensive game will need to improve, or at least show the same consistency, as he moves to the next level.
His even-strength production before this season was a real issue, and it remains to be seen whether 2016-17 was an improvement or simply an aberration.
Bourque will start the season with the Laval Rocket in the AHL. He signed his three-year entry-level contract in March of this year (his previous AHL experience came agreeing to an amateur tryout).
Bourque will be a part of the youth movement on the Laval blue line that will also include Noah Juulsen, along with returning players like Brett Lernout, Tom Parisi, and potentially newcomers Joe Morrow and Matt Taormina.
The big question mark with Bourque’s future is how his defensive game is perceived by management. If it goes well, he could fit in nicely among the future of the blue line in Montreal. If it doesn’t, he may be resigned to be a very good AHL player and power-play specialist.
He has already surpassed all expectations and his potential is better than you would expect from someone drafted as late as he was. His development shows good foresight by the Canadiens scouting department, and with the team lacking defencemen more inclined to the offensive side, he may move to the top of the line of potential call-ups, if he performs well in the AHL.
Even with the number of defencemen in the Canadiens’ system — including the four selected this year — Simon Bourque’s skill set is unique. A first year of professional experience will be an indication whether he has a legitimate NHL future or if he is more of a depth option going forward.
All statistics courtesy of Prospect-Stats.com