The 2021 NHL Draft will be held on July 23-24. NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects and other features. Today, a look at the top eligible prospects from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.
Xavier Bourgault of Shawinigan and Zachary Bolduc of Rimouski are the two top players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League expected to be chosen in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft.
Bourgault (6-foot, 172 pounds), No. 13 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, is the highest-rated player from the QMJHL. The right-handed center scored 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) and 14 power-play points (seven goals, seven assists) in 29 games this season and had four assists in five playoff games.
“His ceiling is quite high when you look at the overall game he brings,” Central Scouting’s Jean-Francois Damphousse said.
Bolduc (6-1, 175), a left-handed center, won the Michael Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL’s Top Prospect after scoring 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) and taking 120 shots on goal in 27 games. He’s No. 17 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.
“Injuries this year may have hurt him a little bit, but when you look at what he did as an underage player, performing the way he did, he’s up there in the rankings,” Damphousse said. “He could be flip-flopped with Bourgault … certain teams may have him a little higher. But I think he fits well where we have him at Central Scouting.”
The first round of the draft is scheduled for July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW). Rounds 2-7 will be July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
Bourgault and Bolduc are two of 44 QMJHL players in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.
To break down the QMJHL prospects, here are five questions with Damphousse:
What do you like most about Bourgault and do you feel he needs to play with a certain style of player to be effective?
“I think his ceiling it quite high; the skill level is impressive. He’s been really consistent the last two years. He has that scoring ability. Obviously, good players play better with good players around them and he proved that playing with (Dallas Stars forward prospect) Mavrik Bourque. He capitalized on playing with him, but we have to give him credit for that.”
What stands out about Bolduc?
“I think he brings the whole package. He does have a great shot and he has that scoring and playmaking ability, but I like his compete level. I like that he can play the physical game, he’s good down low, he’s tough to handle. He’s really good at protecting the puck under pressure. His skating stride is excellent, he’s got real good mechanics and there’s lots of pro elements to his game.”
Quebec’s Evan Nause (No. 22 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters) looks to be the top defenseman from the league. Do you consider him a two-way defenseman or a shutdown guy?
“I think he’s a two-way defenseman and has more offense than what people give him credit for. He played the power play this year, his first year in the QMJHL. He’s a great skater, really mobile, smooth stride, and covers a lot of ice at 5-on-5. He plays penalty kill as well, so he’s the type of defenseman that will translate well to the pro game. He’s got size (6-2, 186) and I thought he improved a lot this year as far as his decision-making with the puck.”
Gatineau center Zach Dean (No. 21) looks to be quick and elusive. Are those traits that stood out to you, and what else do you appreciate about his game?
“Zach is pretty much the whole package. He skates well, is very explosive. He’s got that acceleration through the neutral zone where he can beat a defenseman wide. He’s got a great release, can make plays in tight. Every game I saw him, it seemed like he had a major impact on the game and you just feel some nights he deserved to have 4-or-5 points but had none. His numbers aren’t that impressive (20 points in 23 games) but he played a lot better than the numbers show. He’s got a great two-way game, can kill penalties, play the power play.”
What about left wing Zachary L’Heureux (No. 30) of Halifax? He models his game after (Calgary Flames forward) Matthew Tkachuk, and he also has great hands and scoring touch. What’s his upside?
“He’s a character kid, plays with passion, plays hard. Even as an underage kid with Moncton (in 2019-20), he played a physical game, crashed the net, and was really tough to handle down low and along the boards. He’s a net-front guy who likes to go to the blue paint, find those rebounds. I think he just needs to learn how to manage those emotions sometimes since he got suspended 13 games this year. But he’ll learn from those experiences. He can play as much on the penalty kill as he does on the power play, and I think his upside is great.”
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