SAINT JOHN, NB - A long season for Xavier Bourgault will stretch even longer as he and the QMJHL's Shawinigan Cataractes pursue the Memorial Cup title starting Tuesday in New Brunswick.
When you factor in his standing as a top prospect for the Edmonton Oilers poised to participate in his second NHL Training Camp later this summer, along with his place on Team Canada for the upcoming World Juniors at Rogers Place in August, an already-short off-season will become even shorter.
"It's pretty special. It's a long season," Bourgault said Monday, speaking exclusively to Oilers TV on-site at the 2022 Memorial Cup. "We had World Juniors that were canceled and I got injured, so it's pretty special to be here in June playing hockey again."
That's just the required commitment for a 19-year-old first-round pick who's still building on an impressive draft plus-one season that's seen him battle injuries and postponements during a '21-22 campaign in which he's recorded 48 goals and 49 assists in 59 regular- and post-season contests to help the Cataractes capture their first QMJHL championship and secure the club a chance at winning its second-ever Memorial Cup.
"It was not easy mentally or physically," he said. "I was coming back from the World Juniors because those was canceled. The QMJHL was shut down too because of COVID, and when I came back for my first game I had my injury, so it was hard to be out for a long time. I think [recovery] was six weeks, so I had to go for rehab and it was not easy. I put some goals in my head and found a way to accomplish those goals.
"Finally here, I'm very happy for me and my team to have the chance to win the Memorial Cup."
Video: MEMORIAL CUP | Xavier Bourgault
Bourgault isn't looking too far beyond bringing his best to Saint John this week beginning Tuesday when Shawinigan squares up with the Edmonton Oil Kings in both clubs' opening game of the Memorial Cup at 4:00pm MT. But after the tournament concludes, it'll be a quick turnaround for the L'Islet, QC product before the start of Oilers Development Camp in early July.
"It's a very long season," Bourgault said. "I think after the Memorial Cup I will have one week before I'm going to Edmonton, so I'll take that week for sure to rest. I think in Edmonton I'll have the chance to get some treatment there and rest a little bit too, but right now I'm very focused on the Memorial Cup."
Beyond the Memorial Cup, Development Camp and August's World Juniors in Edmonton, Bourgault awaits his second crack at Oilers Training Camp later in September where the 19-year-old will carry the expectation of contending for a roster spot right out of junior.
"I think for sure I'll go there mentally to make the team," he said. "I know it's not going to be easy, but just to show what I can do for my second year and show more maturity in my game, play simple, and play my game. I can't control the rest, so I'll be there and ready for camp."
Bourgault has made immense strides this season from his first opportunity at camp where he recorded a goal over two pre-season games and received positive reinforcement from the club heading into his final QMJHL campaign after being drafted 22nd overall by the Oilers in 2021.
"I think they were very happy with my two exhibition games, but I think they wanted me as a more complete player -- better defensively and always playing to my strengths," Bourgault said. "When I'm playing with speed I'm a very good player and dangerous every shift, so I'm always competing and getting better as a player every day."
Video: Oilers Goal: Xavier Bourgault (1) 09.26.21
It's an easy pick for Bourgault on who he'd like to line up beside with the Oilers in future seasons after watching nearly every game of the club's post-season run to the Western Conference Final despite the two-plus hour time difference -- sometimes four depending on where the Oilers and the Cataractes were playing at different points of the playoffs.
"For sure I'll take McDavid and Draisaitl," he said. "I think those two guys are very good together. They're just incredible with what they can do, so I think it'd be a pretty good line with those two guys."
As for who in the NHL he'd mirror his game after, Bourgault believes his speed and skill compare well to another offensively-gifted talent currently playing for the Boston Bruins.
"I think Pastrnak from the Boston Bruins is a guy who is very good with the puck, very good shooter, his agility on his skates is pretty good," he said. "I think most of my game is seen in him."