No part of his game is exceptionally better than another part. There’s no signature style, no overwhelming ‘wow’ factor.
And this is actually a good thing.
Bourque, 21, is one of 32 remaining players on the Nashville Predators training camp roster. Since the start of camp, the forward has provided elements that a coaching staff loves, but that are sometimes easily overlooked by fans. He is dependable, features an all-around game and has established himself as a solid two-way player.
“He pays attention and wants to learn,” Predators assistant Coach Lane Lambert said. “He’s very coachable. Because of that, he’s turned himself into a reliable player on both sides of the puck. That’s the thing about being a young player, you have to gain trust. He’s established that side of his game. It’s not perfect. It’s never perfect. But there is certainly a reliability factor with him.”
Lambert would know. He was the head coach in Milwaukee last year when Bourque (5-10, 192 pounds) played 78 regular games and registered 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists). But it was in the postseason when Lambert saw Bourque’s ability to elevate his game. In 12 playoff games with the Admirals in 2010-11, Bourque had seven goals and six assists (13 points). As Lambert says, “He always seems to make something happen when he’s on the ice.”
Bourque’s playoff performance was the latest in a series of confidence builders. One of the most important – and noticeable – came during the 2010 World Junior Championships when he played for Team Canada. In the opener against Latvia, he had three goals and four assists to tie a Team Canada record for points in one game at the WJC.
And Bourque, who the Predators took in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is having another confidence builder with this season’s training camp. He started strong with a dominating performance during the Preds Rookie Camp. Teamed with Craig Smith
and Taylor Beck
, the three were the best forward line at the rookie tournament in South Florida, leading Nashville's rookie squad to 2-0-0 record. The Beck, Bourque, Smith line accounted for seven of the team's 10 goals in the two games.
“I think I’ve tried to make simple plays, play hard and do what (the coaching staff) wants me to do, like makes some plays, throw the puck at the net and bring energy to the team,” Bourque said. “I know I can play well and do some good things on the ice. I need to do what I do best.”
One of Bourque’s best attributes is an off-the-ice approach that carries over to his game. His maturity level is something to marvel at, especially considering he turned 21 last week.
“He’s a very prepared individual,” Lambert said. “He turned pro last year and sometimes there’s a big curve when you’re turning pro and becoming a pro. Part of that is learning how to be properly prepared. He didn’t really have that curve. He was so keen on the game and getting to where he wants to be. That curve for him is very, very small.”
Also helping Bourque’s chances of making it to the NHL is the coaching staff’s familiarity with him. He is a homegrown product who is doing the necessary work that many current Predators did before him.
“It’s a great organization,” Bourque said. “I think they like me and they give me a chance to improve my play. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year but I’m pretty excited.”