Monday, August 10, 2009

Getting to Know the Future

It is fitting that the second prospect that we were going to introduce to New York Ranger fans made his own splash on Monday. One of the things we were going to point out about 2009 3rd round pick Ryan Bourque was that he wants to be his own person and not be compared to his father former NHLer Ray or his brother NHL prospect Chris.

On Monday, Bourque made it past the first round of cuts as Team USA is hosting an evaluation camp to help determine the roster for the 2010 World Under-20 Championships joining fellow Ranger prospects Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan.

Bourque holds dual citizenship because he was born in Massachusetts while his father was playing for the Bruins. Bourque choose the US program over the Canadian program as part of walking his own path.

Like his brother Chris, Ryan is a forward rather than following in his father's footsteps as a defenseman. Like his brother we think Bourque made a mistake in the path he took trying to make it to the NHL but more on that later.

Bourque is an experienced member of the USA Hockey National Training Development Program having played on both the Under-17 and Under-18 National teams. With the Under-18 program, Bourque helped the team win the gold medal at the 2009 World Championships.

Bourque's skills are not in question as he is a "A" level prospect with strong offensive skills. Bourque is a strong playmaker who has above average passing skills combined with a strong skating package.

The problem with Bourque is going to be his size or lack of as at 5'9 170 there are going to be serious questions as to whether or not he will be able to handle the physical pounding at the NHL level. It was Bourque's size that led to his dropping down to the 3rd round as if he was 6'1 200 then Bourque would have gone in the first 2 rounds.

Of the 3 Ranger prospects who survived the first round of cuts at the USA camp, Bourque is the one who we expect to make the final World Junior roster given his previous experience with the USA Hockey program. His experience with international hockey as well as being a veteran of the NTDP tends to give him an edge over his fellow Ranger prospects.

Bourque despite his size is a relentless forechecker who generates most of his offense by being on the attack. Thanks to a very high hockey IQ, Bourque is able to see the ice and anticipate what the other team is thinking about doing.

Bourque has a good shot selection as well as the ability to get his shot off in a hurry. His best shot appears to be his wrister as he can put it almost anywhere he wants. Not much power on his slapshot but it too is accurate as Bourque can keep it low to the ice which will generate rebounds.

As Bourque moves up the ranks towards a professional career, we project that Bourque will be more playmaker than goal scorer. The knock that Bourque is going to constantly have to fight off is going to be that lack of size mainly regarding his weight.

170 lbs on a 5'9 frame is not going to translate into a big body as at best we can see Bourque at 185 lbs when he finally matures. That is not going to inspire confidence with many coaches as they will worry about Bourque's durability as Renney did with Petr Prucha.

That 5'9 size is also going to paint a bulls-eye on Bourque as players are going to try to use their size and strength to overpower him. How Bourque responds when he is playing against bigger players who are almost as fast will be interesting to watch.

Bourque was originally going to attend the hockey program at the University of New Hampshire but backed out of his verbal commitment and will instead go play for Patrick Roy and the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL.

This one is going to sound strange for us as normally our preference is for a prospect to take the CHL route over college but not in this case. Because of his smallish size, Bourque should have stuck with his verbal commitment and used the 4 years at New Hampshire to buy time for his body to mature.

It is a tough call as while Bourque will gain a lot of playing time in the QMJHL, we just do not feel it is the right place for his development. There is no question that Bourque has excellent offensive skills but any other league would help him become a total 2 way player.

Had he taken the NCAA route with New Hampshire then Bourque would have 4-5 years to mature his body. It would mean fewer games but that would reduce the wear and tear on his body.

His brother Chris despite being taking 33rd overall in the 2004 draft has spent more time in the AHL than he has the NHL. Chris in our eyes made the mistake of leaving school after his first year so hopefully Ryan will learn the lesson his brother is going though now.

But since he is going the QMJHL route then Bourque might seriously consider finding someone to fight at the first chance he will get. This may sound crazy but Bourque like we said has a target on him.

From being the son of a Hall of Fame player to being a smallish player, one of the better ways to prevent being run is having people know that you will respond with your fists. Sending a message that you will not back down does a lot to help prevent the bullies from coming after you.

Ryan Bourque is a long way from making it to the Rangers as we project 2 seasons in the QMJHL and another 2 in Hartford as we believe the Rangers are going to want him to prove his body can handle the wear and tear.


Congrats to the other Ranger prospects Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider for making it past the first round of cuts. It would be a huge coup for the Rangers if both were to make the roster for the WJC so here is hoping that both have a monster series against the Russians.

As for the rest of the Ranger prospects, only Roman Horak appears to have a real chance right now at playing in the WJC. Depending on where Evgeny Grachev winds up playing this season then the best Ranger fans can hope for will be 4 prospects which is still a good number.


Boo Hoo that Nikolai Zherdev is going to play in the KHL, what a shame it is to see a player with his kind of talent but lacking in the desire to give his best. What Zherdev's decision should not be used as is a reflection on Russian players as there are some very hard working Russians out there.

The Rangers have 2 very hard working players from Russia in Grachev and Artem Anisimov and there are lot more in the NHL. It is a shame that players like Zherdev cast the wrong image of Russian hockey players as players who have talent but no heart or desire come from all countries not just Russia.

It is just sad to see such a gifted player not see that his mindset is why he will not become the great player he had the potential to be. The Rangers may have lost a player but Zherdev lost a lot more.

(Bourque pic courtesy of USA Hockey)

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