It’s pretty common in the modern day NHL to see younger players make immediate impacts with their respective NHL teams when they finally make it to the big show. It’s also pretty common to see those younger players be wildly inconsistent in their production throughout their first few seasons in the NHL.
Nashville Predators forward Gabriel Bourque isn’t having a problem being a consistent force so far in his NHL career. He’s not a supremely gifted offensive player, but he is good in every aspect of the game. Bourque has made an impact with the Predators ever since he came up from Milwaukee last season. Part of Bourque’s success comes from his personality, which is why the NHL stage hasn’t intimidated him.
“My first game last year was pretty impressive. To go home and watch in Quebec and I saw my name. That was pretty cool. My family was pretty proud of me and it was pretty exciting,” Bourque said.
Bourque is everything that Barry Trotz and the Preds’ coaching staff value in a hockey player. He’s a tenacious presence on the forecheck, utilizes his speed, contributes offensively and inspires his teammates every night with his effort, even though he doesn’t present an intimidating physical presence.
“(Bourque) works so hard day in, day out. He plays bigger than he is, too, which is awesome. He’s doing a great job finding those areas to score,” said Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.
In last season’s first round series against the Detroit Red Wings, Bourque showed that he can contribute offensively in the big moments. He scored three big goals in that series to help push the Predators past the Red Wings in five games. At only 22 years of age, Bourque is still a young player that is developing. That means that he’s only going to get better from here.
Playing in the NHL is a grind, and one of the biggest adjustments that younger players have to make once they make it to the NHL is learning how to deal with that schedule. Bourque seems to have discovered the secret toward having a successful career in the NHL.
“I think a lot of rest and trying to learn everything you can from the coaching staff and from the players that have been here longer. That’s what I try to do well and be ready every game,” Bourque said.
While mostly being known for his tremendous speed and intensity that creates big momentum shifts for the Predators, Bourque has shown the ability to score some nifty goals as well. In his first NHL shootout attempt against the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 31, Bourque scored a gorgeous goal to keep the Predators alive when their backs were up against the wall. He made a beautiful forehand-to-backhand move and lifted the puck over the top of Jonathan Quick for the goal.
“I’ve practiced that for a few years. I always do the same move. The last practice I got two or three moves but always started the same way. The goalie coach told me to do that before the game, so I did. It worked well,” Bourque said.
Bourque has made a consistent positive impact for the Predators, and his style of play suggests that he will continue that path for years to come. He has shown the ability to play in any game situation, which gives the Predators a lot of flexibility with their lineup. He has four points in eight games after missing the start of the season rehabbing an injury suffered in Milwaukee.
Bourque’s not the biggest or most talented player, but he’s been one of the most impressive all-around young players that the Predators have had in recent memory.