Bourbonnais lets his game speak for itself

By Tom Schreier

Riley Bourbonnais - Cedar Rapids RoughRiders

Photo: Cedar Rapids forward Riley Bourbonnais has been a productive player in the USHL, but he is getting down to his last chance to be drafted by an NHL team (courtesy of Amber Schmidt/Metro Studios)

Riley Bourbonnais of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and his head coach, Mark Carlson, may be the most laconic player-coach tandem in junior hockey.

The son of former Rochester Institute of Technology player John Bourbonnais, Riley had an uncle, Jim Kartes, that played for RIT, as well.

Despite growing up in Rochester, NY with close ties to RIT, Riley has committed to a different school with a famed acronym, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (or RPI), which is about four hours from Rochester, but only an hour away from his prep school, Berkshire School, in Sheffield, MA.

He put up 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 53 games last season, but was overlooked in the NHL Draft.

“He was passed over in the draft last year, but I honestly can’t see that happening this year,” reports one scout via the United States of Hockey blog after seeing him in a game last season. “Playing in the much more visible USHL should get Bourbonnais plenty of looks. If he keeps up the scoring pace he’s currently on, he’d be near impossible to let slip past the fourth round.”

Bourbonnais remains undrafted, but is off to a red-hot start this season, with six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in his first five games.

Carlson, on the other hand, has garnered significant recognition for his accolades. The President, Head Coach and Manager of the RoughRiders was offered the University of Massachusetts head coaching position last summer after winning 42 games in 2004-05 and 2010-11 and earning the USHL Coach of the Year Award.

He has coached his team to the Clark Cup playoffs every year since the 2000-01 season and won a championship in 2004-05.

Carlson conducts his interviews like a John Tortorella press conference—offering terse answers to most questions.

Head Coach Mark Carlson

Hockey's Future: Describe the strengths and weaknesses of Bourbonnais’ game.

Mark Carlson: He’s got good ability. He’s got good skill. He’s learning what it takes to be successful at this level, which is good, hard work every single night.

HF: What does he need to do to have success at the next level?

MC: Learn to work consistently.

HF: How prepared do you feel he was for USHL hockey?

MC: I don’t know if anybody is ever prepared for this league. This is a very, very competitive league and once the guys get here they figure out how hard it is.  He’s done okay so far, but he’s got a long way to go and we’re confident he’ll get there.

Riley Bourbonnais

Hockey's Future: Describe the strengths and weaknesses of your game.

Riley Bourbonnais: I feel one of my strengths is my vision. I have good vision and I’m a team player. I do whatever it takes.
Weakness? One of the things I have to work on would probably be quicker feet.

HF: What are your interests outside of hockey?

RB: Just hanging out with the boys. We go fishing and watch movies and stuff like that.

HF: Who has supported you during your hockey career?

RB: My coaches, my family, my teammates: everyone that I’m involved with.

HF: Which NHL player do you model your game after?

RB: I don’t know. I just make plays, score, be a threat out there.

HF: Your thoughts on RPI taking interest in you.

RB: It was amazing. When I committed there it was close to home and it was everything I hoped for and I’m real excited about going there.

Follow Tom Schreier on Twitter via @tschreier3