Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
A fifth round pick for the Nashville Predators in the 2009 NHL Draft, Gabriel Bourque is yet another example of how Nashville European scouting system is possibly one of the best in the business. Bourque showed huge advancements in play this season as his numbers will show. Despite his injury, Bourque is showing the kind of offensive promise that a fast skater and a goal-crease camper can use to help an anemic offense the Predators find themselves with on a yearly basis.
From Then to Now
Gabriel Bourque scored seven goals, 12 assists and a plus/minus rating of -2 in 2011-2012 playing in 43 games. He almost matched his totals from the year before in nine less games by scoring 11 goals and 5 assists in the 2012-2013 season. Bourque also came in second on the Predators in goals behind David Legwand with 11 (he did it in 14 less games than Legwand who played in every game of the condensed season).
Beyond the Stats
Gabriel Bourque uses his speed and the example set by Hornqvist to get in front of the net, redirect shots, and clean house for his goals. The Predators have needed a net presence other than Hornqvist to keep goaltenders honest. With Gabriel Bourque, the Predators also get an amazingly fast left-winger that can blow past defenders and cause the mismatch in the offensive zone that Nashville needs to take advantage rather than the typical dump-and-chase routine.
Even though Bourque could take a few more shots on net (only 50 SOG this season, 10th on the Predators), he has picked up the pace defensively. Trotz’ system is defense-first and Bourque was ready and able to pick-pocket the puck from an unsuspecting forward and deliver it up ice either with a crisp pass or his quick skating. He also was third amongst Predator forwards in blocked shots, proving he is willing to take a beating on both ends of the ice.
Bourque, Bourque, Bourque
Bourque had two multi-point games this year, one against Columbus and another against Phoenix. These two games were towards the end of year and a week before his injury which begs the question of how much more he could have done if not injured against Chicago.
Even though Bourque didn’t blast out of the gates early on with stellar offensive play, his last fifteen games prove that his game gets better the more ice time he gets (10 points in 15 games).
Barring the injury setback that affected many of the top-tier players on the Predators this season, Bourque had the potential to be the leading goal scorer and one of the tops on the team in scoring in the lockout shortened season.
He received a modest raise and a two-year contract extension and his game is suited to Hornqvist’s close quarters scoring, but the overwhelming key to Bourque’s game is his speed. Some of the speed that the Predators lost in players likes Sullivan and this season with Erat, Bourque will be a worthy replacement. His cuts down the board and the ability to arrive in front of the net after a drop pass to the defense will serve him well the next few seasons.
Hopefully his style of play won’t lend itself to more injuries as his absence from the lineup cost the Predators a capable offensive talent. It may be no coincidence that the Predators only won two games after he went down and scored a total of 22 goals in 12 games (1.83 goals per game).
FINAL GRADE: B+
If his injury didn’t come when it did, it is more than likely that Bourque would have led the team in goals and points if he continued his solid play. With this, we gave Bourque the grade of B+