Being the son of Hall of Famer Ray, Chris Bourque has had a bevy of expectations placed upon him since becoming the Capitals second round selection in the 2004 NHL Draft. After four years and only a cup of coffee to date at the NHL level, his time as a prospect may be running out.
The 23-year-old Boston native's status now falls under the 19 and 4 rule as described in the collective bargaining agreement. In simple terms it states that since he was signed as a 19-year-old to his entry-level deal, he was exempt from waivers during his first four seasons in professional hockey.
That fourth season ended in June as Bourque and the rest of his teammates in Hershey celebrated the franchise's record breaking 10th Calder Cup championship. Now it's time for him to make the jump to the NHL full-time, or be subject to waivers and a possible new organization this fall.
At 5-foot 8-inches and 180 pounds, Bourque has overcome his small frame by always playing with a lot of heart.
"My size, a lot of people look at is as a disadvantage," said Bourque to PennLive.com. "I feel I've got to be out there exuding energy every shift.
"I don't want to take a shift off, whether it is the regular season or the playoffs, it doesn't matter. I come out with intensity.
"I've never looked at my size as something that held me back, really. I look at it as an asset. I've got a low center of gravity, and that makes it hard for me to get thrown off the puck. So, it's an advantage for me, not a negative."
During the 2008-09 season, and for the fourth consecutive year, Bourque put up career numbers at the AHL level. He totaled 21 goals and 73 points in just 69 games with the Bears, putting him 12th in the league in scoring.
For the second straight year he also received a limited amount of action with the Capitals. After playing in four games during the 2007-08 season and his only statistics being two penalty minutes, Bourque suited up in eight games last season and recorded his first career NHL goal.
"It was awesome that I got that first one," he told reporters back on Dec. 30th, 2008. "It was surreal."
In a full-time capacity this fall, he could fill the role of an energy player on the team's third or fourth lines. Given the opportunity, his all-around skills would be an asset to the penalty kill, and with time he could provide an additional scoring punch to the lineup as a part of the team's bottom-six forwards.
If Bourque wants to score his second goal in a Capitals uniform this year, he's going to have to find a way onto Washington's 23-man roster out of training camp or else he will most likely continue his professional career elsewhere.