Vancouver's Lucky Luc
By: Kevin Kinghorn
They didn't exactly detonate fireworks from the roof of General Motors Place or name a skytrain station after him, but they could have. After all, Luc Bourdon represents a coup of mammoth proportions on the part of the Vancouver Canucks.
By rights, Dave Nonis and company should have picked in the high twenties had the lockout not prompted the grand draft lottery of 2005. And the odds of a player of Bourdon's caliber winding up in the Vancouver stable that late in the draft would have been about as good as the Leafs' chances of making a deep cup run come this spring.
Thankfully, with planets aligned and all, the Canuck ball dropped giving them the tenth pick and Bourdon fell square into Vancouver's lap. The only person happier than Nonis himself, was likely Bourdon.
"It feels really good being picked by a Canadian team," said an ecstatic Bourdon, shortly after Vancouver used their first pick on the Shippagan, New Brunswick native. "It's a great honour to myself. I am looking forward to Vancouver very much."
Like most teenagers, Bourdon isn't an overly chatty kid. And though his English isn't horrid by any stretch, it probably doesn't help his confidence doing interviews with Vancouver media having grown up speaking mostly French. Nor that he comes from a town of just 2,920 residents that's famous for fishing, farming peat moss and a really, really big campground. It's just not in his blood to ramble on about himself.
But there's no confusing his economy of words with a sullen disposition. He's a solid Canadian kid with an appreciation for his good fortune.
"For myself, it's an honour in a country like Canada where hockey is number one. It's going to be great."
When coaxed for a few words about his style of play, Bourdon sounds like he's reading from a scouting report.
"I would say that I'm a pretty physical guy. That's my biggest quality as a player. I also have a good shot for a defenseman and I'm skating pretty well."
None of that matters though. The kid can play hockey and that's why Vancouver drafted him.
Now, nobody's beating the drum and saying Bourdon should've challenged Crosby for the 'consensus number one' crown, but he's about as blue chip as they come. At just 17 years-old, he's a mean defender who carries 200-pounds of muscle on a maturing 6-foot-2 frame and he skates like most people drive their cars. In fact, International Scouting had him ranked as the second best skater in the draft behind only Sid Crosby himself. Add to that a 94 mph slap shot that was the second best in the CHL at the annual skills competition, and you can see why the Canuck draft table was all smiles and back slapping Saturday morning.
"[Being picked 10th] wasn't a surprise at all," says Claude Bouchard, Bourdon's junior coach in Val d'Or. "Last year here he was a bull of a defenseman for us. He played against the other team's top lines. He played on the penalty kill and the powerplay, and logged between 20 and 25 minutes per game. And he was only 17 years old. That's not easy. You're playing night after night against 19 year-olds and 20 year-olds. It's very tough."
To hear Bouchard speak of his star defender, you'd think he owned stocks in Bourdon Hockey Inc. He's unwavering in his praise.
"He's a very, very good kid," says Bouchard. "The objective for Luc is to play pro. He does what he has to do on the ice, and he does what he has to off it. He respects the curfew, he watches his diet and he takes his training off ice he takes very, very seriously."
"For me, it's fun to coach him. He's a great example for the other kids."
Which is good for Val d'Or since, at just 18 years-old, Bourdon is most likely headed back to the Foreurs for another year of junior, which will give him a shot at making Canada's World Junior squad.
Bourdon's not necessarily a lock to make it, but he was named 'top defenseman' at last year's World Under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic. But he is, as Bouchard points out, one heck of a pick for a Vancouver team lacking somewhat in toughness on the back end.
"I'm very certain he'll be a very good player for Vancouver," explains Bouchard. "I'm sure of that."
"Luc's principal quality is that he's a very tough defenseman and he plays very well in his own end. He's also good in the offensive zone, but the bread and butter for Luc is his toughness. Last year he had a minimum of 10 or 11 fights. That's what sets him apart."
Mind you, the soft spoken kid with the lead fists isn't too bad with the puck either.
"Luc," says Bouchard "has the best shot on my team. It's a pro shot. I remember last year in practice Luc shooting from the blue line and ringing the bell of our goaltender. Oh boy, it's a pro shot. He scored probably nine or ten goals from the blue line. That's a high number."
"This kid gets all the tough assignments," says the Canuck's Chief Scout Ron Delorme. "He's playing against the other team's top forward lines. That's a great sign. We look at that and we see a solid kid. He provides stability."
"The best way for me to describe him without putting any pressure on the kid is to compare him to Mattias Ohlund. He's not great in any one area, but he's good at everything. He's a steady player who can play in every situation: full strength, shorthanded and on the powerplay. You put [Ohlund] on the market and everybody wants him. That's the value of this kid."
Bourdon did register 13 goals and 19 assists in all 70 games last season with the Foreurs. Those are solid numbers. Especially when you considered the youngster had 117 penalty minutes. Where those stats let him down however, are in the plus/minus column.
Bourdon was a ghastly minus-39. Which, let's face it, is kind of scary for a kid taken tenth overall. That is until you take a look at the team Val d'Or had. They were awful. They wound up with just 21 wins at year's end and were the second worst team in the entire QMJHL.
"They weren't a very good team this year in Val d'Or," says Mario Marois, a Canuck amateur scout based back east.
"Maybe when then rely on you like they did on Bourdon, maybe sometimes you try to do too much. But he was involved pretty much all the time."
Like Bouchard, Marois is a fan of Bourdon's.
"We feel that he's a good skater and he moves very well. He's got some passion for the game. I've seen him when he goes and takes people out, it's not hard for him do. He's very physical."
As far as his 'average' hockey sense, Marois isn't convinced.
"I don't think that's the knock on him. He moves the puck well, he reads the play all right and his breakouts are good. I don't think he has poor hockey sense at all."
"I was joking with [Bouchard} saying that he wouldn't see Luc again in September just to bug him, and he wasn't very pleased. He said, 'please, not now. Maybe when he's 19 I'll be okay with that, but please not now.' They really rely on him in Val d'Or."
Hopefully it won't be long before the Canuck coaching staff holds a similar opinion of the strapping Canadian defender. He won't likely see Vancouver, or even Manitoba any time soon, but Marois won't rule it completely out.
"If he keeps improving from where we saw him last August at the Under-18s, he could be in Vancouver shortly. Maybe sooner than some of the other kids."
Here's to hoping.