Saturday, December 26, 2009

One To Enjoy

The first day of the World Under-20 Championships was a good one for the 3 Ranger draft picks playing for Team USA and a really bad one for the draft pick playing for the Czech Republic.

Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) showed why he was more than deserving to be the Team USA captain as he led the USA back from down 2-0 to a 7-3 win over Slovakia in the tournament opener for both teams.

Stepan with a goal and 2 assists but was on the ice for 5 of the USA goals as the coming out party for the future Ranger was an impressive one. Once known strictly as a one way offensive player, Stepan showed that he is on his way to becoming a complete player at both ends of the ice.

Chris Kreider (2009 1st) sent a message that there is more to his game than just the speed that the Rangers sang the praises of when they drafted him. Kreider was solid on his backcheck while chipping in a primary assist on what proved to be the game winning goal.

Kreider started out on the USA third line but was moved up to play with Stepan on the USA first power play unit. Kreider and Stepan looked very comfortable playing with each other and it is scary to even think of the possibilities that these 2 may one day bring to the Rangers.

Between Kreider and Stepan, the 2 combined for 10 of the USA's 46 shots.

Ryan Bourque (2009 3rd) was on the USA second line but was used more as a 3rd option on the USA power play unit. Bourque deserved an assist on the US's 6th goal but was not awarded one.

Bourque was not the offensive force that Stepan or Kreider was and to be honest we saw a couple of times when Bourque's size hurt him as he was easy to body out off the puck. Bourque really does need to fix his body as his smallish size is going to keep coaches from having the confidence to think he can handle the pounding of the NHL.

Roman Horak (2009 5th) on the other hand also needs to add to his body but in his case it is more about filling out his frame. But for now his Czech Republic team has some serious problems after getting badly beaten by Sweden 10-1 in their opener.

The Czechs had all sorts of problems starting with a short roster as they only dressed 17 players claiming sickness and injury had limited their options. Their options just might become even more limited like the real possibility of being sent to the relegation round if they do not turn things around fast.

We get told repeatedly that Luke Walker is not an official Ranger prospect which we know but we have included him in our reports this season because the Ranger scouts who led to Walker's invitation to Traverse City. Walker has come a long way to earn a spot on this season's USA roster.

Walker was used as part of Team USA's 4th line or energy line and they did their job very well. Walker had 4 shots on goal and we credited him with 5 hits which given his facial injury is very impressive.

Someone is going to get themselves a player in Luke Walker but as we said credit for his play belongs to the Ranger scouts who saw something in him and fought for his invite.

Next up for the USA is Switzerland and given the short turnaround for this game, it is also a very dangerous matchup for the US. The Swiss did not play on Saturday and we are looking forward to seeing Luke Walker face his Portland Winterhawk teammate Nino Neiderreiter.

Nino going to be a very high draft pick in the 2010 NHL draft as he has been tearing it up in the WHL. Nino is a 6' 207 power forward who is leading WHL rookies in scoring with 23-18-41.

The rest of the Ranger prospects in the CHL see the end of their holiday break tomorrow so we are going to be very busy trying to keep track of everyone.

(Stepan courtesy of Melody Hasse)

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