Today’s installment of our continuing look at Nashville Predators prospects brings us to Milwaukee Admirals left wing Gabriel Bourque.
The 22-year-old from Rimouski, Quebec, was selected by the Predators in the 5th round (132nd overall) of the 2009 draft. Bourque played his junior hockey in the QMJHL of his home province, posting 141 points (48G-93A) and 218 PIMs in 180 career games. After two and a half seasons with Baie-Comeau Drakkar he was traded to the Moncton Wildcats at the end of the ’09-’10 season. His numbers in the regular season for Moncton were unimpressive, but Bourque scored 29 points (19G-10A)in 21 playoff games to help the Wildcats win the championship. For that he was awarded the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the playoff MVP.
Gabriel Bourque made his pro debut with the Admirals in 2010. With 36 points (18G-18A) and a +10 rating in 78 games, he was a mainstay for a team that won the AHL Western Conference’s West Division regular season title. In that season’s Calder Cup playoffs, he posted another 13 points (7G-6A) in 13 games. His 2011-12 season with the Admirals was cut short after 22 games when he got the call up to Nashville.
At just 5’9” the fast-skating left winger became another in a long and illustrious line of undersized Nashville forwards (see Steve Sullivan, Greg Johnson, Paul Kariya, et al.). Most of his time was spent on the bottom lines in 5-on-5 situations, where energy, a willingness to stick with the play, and responsible play became his hallmarks. Coach Barry Trotz found enough reason to keep him in the lineup for 43 games, in which Bourque rewarded the coach’s trust with 19 points (7G-12A) and a scant 6 penalty minutes. By the end of the season some of the team’s forward lines had stopped clicking, and Bourque made the most of the opportunity to earn more ice time on a line with David Legwand and Alexander Radulov.
Bourque enjoyed continued success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he played in all 10 of Nashville’s games against Detroit and Phoenix. He notched 2 goals in Game 1 to help the Preds defeat the Red Wings by a score of 3-2. Then he added this one in Game 4 to help the Preds take a 3-1 lead in the series:
Bourque was assigned to Milwaukee before the lockout and was all set to continue his development with the Admirals. But just 2 games into the season he was knocked out with a lower-body injury, and after his return he missed two more games for an uncharacteristic suspension for an illegal check. He has only played in 7 games so far this season, posting 5 points (2G-3A).
Given how well his first year with the big club went, it’s a sure bet that Gabriel Bourque will earn a return trip to Nashville whenever the lockout ends. If he continues to work hard and earn the trust of Coach Trotz, he could once again move up the depth chart at the expense of others who underperform. Even if he doesn’t spend time on a top line again anytime soon, Bourque’s energy and determination are archetypal Nashville hockey stuff. He should prove to be a valuable asset for the Predators.