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FUTURE WATCH: Bourgault extending exceptional season in Shawinigan

The Oilers 2021 first-round pick is set to continue his strong second half with the QMJHL's Cataractes into the Memorial Cup and this summer's World Juniors restart in Edmonton

by Jamie Umbach @JamieUmbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Since returning to the lineup for the QMJHL's Shawinigan Cataractes from a slew of injuries and postponements in the middle of March, Oilers prospect Xavier Bourgault has enjoyed a new lease on the 2021-22 season.

After lifting the President's Cup as a league-winner with the Cataractes on Saturday, the first-round draft pick of Edmonton in 2021 has the opportunity to keep the momentum intact heading into a big summer for the 19-year-old.

Shawinigan came out on top in Game 5 of the QMJHL Final on Saturday night, with Bourgault registering two assists in a 4-3 overtime victory over a strong Charlottetown Islanders side to win their first-ever President's Cup and the chance to compete in the team's second-ever Memorial Cup after winning the 2012 tournament as the host city.

"Pretty pumped, for real," Bourgault described winning the QMJHL title to 630CHED's Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer on Monday. "It was not easy this season for us. We finished seventh in the [QMJHL], so it was pretty special because we were the underdogs in this final series.

Tweet from @QMJHL: A tremendous effort by Bourgault sees him tie things up for the @Cataractes_Shaw! 👌🏼 #PresidentCup | #InMemoryOfGuy pic.twitter.com/6rLODFZ8PS

After finishing the regular season third in the QMJHL's Western Conference, the Cataractes swept back-to-back series against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Gatineau Olympique before running the gauntlet against the league's top two teams.

The Cataractes upset the 104-point Quebec Remparts in five games before moving on to the final and eliminating the Charlottetown Islanders in overtime of Game 5 with an emphasis on limiting their high-offence opponents to outside chances.

"They were a team that shoots a lot of pucks, but I think they were shooting more on the outside of our d-zone," he said. "So we were doing a pretty good job with the zone coverage. I think they were a pretty good team, and when we had the chance to put the puck in the net, we did it."

Bourgault finished the regular season with 36 goals and 39 assists in 43 games before placing fourth in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 10 assists in 16 post-season contests, including a league-high five game-winning goals -- three of which were in overtime.

Tweet from @QMJHL: Bourgault���s second of the night makes it a 2-2 game! ���🏻 #PresidentCup | #InMemoryOfGuy pic.twitter.com/LxNk8xyX3d

The L'Islet, QC product combined with Dallas Stars prospect Mavrik Bourque in a deadly offensive duo all season, but the pair also missed their fair share of time due to injury.

"I think we had a lot of injured players this year," Bourgault said. "Me and Mavrik, I think together we missed around 40 games or more. So I think the younger guys got a lot of experience and it helped us along the way in this series and some big games."

Bourgault had the follow-through from a stick catch him in the eye in early November, leading him to visit an eye specialist despite only missing one game, and suffered a concussion in the third period of Team Canada's opening game of the World Junior against Czechia before the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 complications.

After a lengthy QMJHL postponement in January, he was back in the lineup on Feb. 4 against Rouyn-Noranda recording an assist before missing a further 17 games. When he returned in mid-March, Bourgault was sensational the rest of the way on Shawinigan's run to the QMJHL championship by posting 26 goals and 28 assists in 34 combined regular-season and playoff games.

Bourgault's successful second half was bolstered by belief in his own speed and how paramount that detail is to his on-ice impact alongside his high expectations for himself. 

"I think I'm playing more with speed and more competitiveness in my game," he said. "For sure I want to improve my ability to play my game and always play with speed. When I'm using my speed, I think I'm a very dangerous player in every situation of the game." 

With the capturing of the QMJHL championship ahead of an important off-season where he'll turn pro, Bourgault will be rewarded with a second opportunity to make up for games lost and compete at the World Juniors back in Edmonton at Rogers Place later this summer in August.

"Pretty nice," Bourgault said of the opportunity to return for the World Juniors in the city that drafted him. "For sure it was very sad to end the tournament in Edmonton like it did, but I feel like it's a second chance." 

Before then, Bourgault will keep his sights set on contesting the Memorial Cup beginning June 20 in Saint John, where the Cataractes will face the host Sea Dogs and the winners of the WHL and OHL finals. The Edmonton Oil Kings lead the Seattle Thunderbirds 3-2, with Game 6 going down at Rogers Place on Monday night while the Hamilton Bulldogs equally look to clinch the Ontario title over the Windsor Spitfires up 3-2 in their series.

"I got injured this year, so I get to play some more games in the Memorial Cup and the new tournament in August too.

"Right now I'm focusing on the Memorial Cup and finishing my summer training and all that stuff. Then we'll see. I'll have to wait for the rest of the summer for this tournament.

Photo courtesy Ghyslain Bergeron, QMJHL

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