Michael Bournival entered Montreal Canadiens training camp on September 11th, more than just a long shot to make the opening night roster. Yesterday however, we found out he did just that.
The native of Shawinigan had a great season last year in the American Hockey League with the Canadiens top affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. But with the addition of Daniel Briere and George Parros, the Canadiens were bringing back 13 forwards who regularly played in the National Hockey League last season. In addition to those 13 was Gabriel Dumont, who impressed in a short stint in Montreal last season, and played in three playoff games with the Canadiens. Dumont would also require waivers to to be sent back to Hamilton.
The Canadiens forwards seemed set in stone, but then Bournival impressed in each of his preseason games, seemingly getting faster and smarter in every contest. His four goals and five points only trailed Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban in team scoring during the exhibition schedule, but it was his tenacious, speedy play that forced management to keep him on the roster.
Bournival, in his first professional season, scored 30 points in 69 AHL games, enough for third on a young Bulldogs squad. He was coming off three straight seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with his hometown Cataractes, where he averaged over a point per game, yet he was still known for the defensive side of his game.
He certainly showed why his reputation as a defensive center precedes him during camp. In his six preseason games, Bournival only averaged 11 minutes per game, but held a plus minus differential of plus two, and was used in plenty of defensive and shorthanded situations, thriving in all aspects of the game.
Bournival was brought to the Canadiens organization in November of 2010, in a trade that sent Ryan O’Byrne the other way. Since then, O’Byrne has headed overseas to find a place to play, while Bournival won a Memorial Cup, and earned a roster spot in the NHL at the age of 21.
Not only did Bournival outplay others such as Dumont and Michael Blunden for the final roster spot, as a player not subject to waivers, Canadiens brass are so confident in Bournival, they are willing to lose the others for nothing via the waiver wire to keep Michael around.
The Canadiens just rolled the dice on Bournival, it is now time for him to prove in the regular season that he was worth the gamble.