Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Really Nice to Dream

After 2 games in the USA/Russia exhibition series it is really hard to temper one's enthusiasm when the play of the 3 New York Ranger prospects stands out like it has been. For Ranger fans the play of Derek Stepan, Ryan Bourque and Chris Kreider at the USA Evaluation Camp is a great way to get the 2009-10 hockey season underway.

While the numbers being put up by the Ranger prospects have been really nice (Stepan 4 assists, Bourque 2 goals, 1 assist) what is being overlooked has been their defensive play.

The picture here is Ryan Bourque on the forecheck something that Bourque is getting higher marks for than his offense. Bourque has been a major disruptive force on the USA penalty kill which has shut the Russians out 0 for 13.

Bourque's forecheck is what we mentioned the other day as a big part of his game and it is showing. It is also showing that skating speed is more than just an offensive weapon as it is an example of how the Tortorella system can work.

Derek Stepan has been as we have been saying since last season, a very smart player who's skating skills opens up ice for his linemates. Stepan in our eyes has perhaps the highest hockey IQ of all Ranger prospects as he makes smart play after smart play.

He has 4 assists but his own pressure on the forecheck is helping the US keep the Russians limited to just 2 goals in 2 days. Stepan was viewed as just a one way player but the teachings of his coach at Wisconsin Mike Eaves is paying dividends.

Chris Kreider may not have any points but what he is doing is answering questions about his ability to play against a higher level of competition. Even we here have been concerned about Kreider since he was not playing against the highest levels of competition.

With 2 games remaining in the exhibition series against the Russians we doubt that Kreider will finish with no points. However in Kreider's case he has already won since he has shown he can handle the jump to the next level of competition.

Offense is great as it wins games but keeping the other teams from scoring more than you do is what wins championships. The Tortorella system starts with a relentless forecheck something that the Rangers prospects are showing that they are learning how to do.

Now even though the Ranger prospects have played well, it is going to be a shame that only Ryan Bourque is going to move on to Traverse City. Stepan and Kreider will be heading to their respective colleges.

For us it means we will have a lot of fun watching these 3 play this season but for Ranger fans it does give them something to dream about.


The NHL Network is one of the smartest moves that the NHL has ever come up with. If there is any real complaints we have with the network is that is that events like the current evaluation camps in both the US and Canada are getting no coverage.

Really if the NHL wanted to give hockey fans in general something to get them hungry for the upcoming season then why not show a couple of games in the Russia/USA series for their American viewers? The majority of players on the US roster are already NHL draftees which would generate interest from more fans than they realize.

The can send a reporter to provide coverage so they have to know there is some interest. Not to mention some live hockey might draw more viewers than seeing repeats of the 2008 playoffs.

Hopefully the NHL will do better when the Traverse City Tournament gets underway in a couple of weeks. 8 NHL teams will be in action including the Rangers and the hope is that the NHL will offer live coverage rather than tape delayed.

(Ryan Bourque picture courtesy of Alex Clark/USA Hockey)

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