Bourgault recovering from injury, thinking about WJC ahead of Oilers training camp

EDMONTON — Xavier Bourgault didn’t skate during Edmonton Oilers development camp earlier this month because of recovering from a core muscle injury, but the 19-year-old is still planning a busy offseason in his quest to reach the NHL.

Selected with the 22nd pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Bourgault is figuring out his next move, which could be playing for Canada in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship from Aug. 9-20, if he’s healthy enough. The tournament was postponed in December due to concerns around the coronavirus.

Bourgault was named to the WJC staff in December. He suffered an upper body injury in Canada’s opening tournament game against the Czech Republic on 26 December, following a blow to the head by defender Stanislav Svozil in the third period of a 6–3 victory. The tournament was postponed three days later.

“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Bourgault said during development camp. “I felt fine after a day or two and would have continued playing if they hadn’t canceled the tournament.”

Bourgault is expected to be ready for Oilers training camp in September. He signed a three-year basic contract on March 31.

“It’s a short summer, I’ll have a chance to rest, I’ll do some treatments here and I’ll have a chance to work out,” Bourgault said. “I have the option to decide soon if I’m going to play in the junior worlds. I have a big summer of workouts for my first professional year (season) and I want to be ready for it. I’m going to have to be ready for a big year.”

Bourgault (6 feet, 172 pounds) is expected to get a good look at the Oilers with an outside shot at making the roster. If not, he will start this season with Bakersfield of the American Hockey League.

“I think last year I had two good exhibition games with the Oilers, and I look at their lineup and they have good veteran players,” he said, “but I think there’s some opportunity for me and the younger guys to push for a see.” .

“It’s good for our team to have some young players and gain experience for the future. For sure, we think we can help the veteran players that are already there. We saw during the Stanley Cup playoffs that they are very close to a championship here.”

Bourgault ranked second to Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season with 75 points (36 goals, 39 assists) in 43 games and the playoffs with 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 16 games. His final season playing junior hockey was highlighted by Shawinigan’s qualification for the 2022 Memorial Cup, where he lost to Hamilton 4-3 in overtime in the semifinals. Bourgault tied for second in the tournament with seven points (two goals, five assists) with teammate Mavrik Bourque, a forward selected by the Dallas Stars with the 30th pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

“It was a very special team,” said Bourgault. “I remember when I was 16 I was talking to [Bourque] and said it would be fun to go to the Memorial Cup and play against guys like Jake Neighbors (#26, St. Louis Blues, 2020), who we were together with at the Canadian under-17 camp. And it was nice to end my junior career at the Memorial Cup, playing with a lot of guys I know. It was pretty special.”

Bourgault and Bourque proved a dynamic offensive pairing for Shawinigan, combining 143 points (56 goals, 87 assists) during the regular season and 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) in the playoffs.

“It’s amazing, we both came to Shawinigan at the age of 16, and we didn’t really know each other and so we got together; he’s such a talented player,” Bourque said during the Memorial Cup. “We’ve played along the same lines since he was 17 and we started to develop chemistry, and I think it was three years of playing with him and it was fun to play with such a good hockey player.”

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