Posts tagged: Ryan Bourque

Taking stock of what’s coming down the prospect pipeline

Expectations are sky-high for Oscar Lindberg going into 2013-2014

Expectations are sky-high for Oscar Lindberg going into 2013-2014

The 2013 draft is now in the books and the Rangers have added five more youngsters to their prospect system.  Let’s take a look at where all the prospects stand heading into the offseason.

On the cusp

Chris Kreider

After bursting onto the scene during the 2012 playoffs, Kreider struggled out of the gate with the CT Whale to start the 2013 season.  He joined the Rangers following the lockout, but never earned major minutes under coach John Tortorella and was frequently sent back and forth from New York to Connecticut.  Still the crown jewel of the Rangers’ system, Kreider should be handed a much bigger offensive role next season under Alain Vigneault.

J.T. Miller

Miller’s quick climb up the ladder to New York was extremely impressive and though his 2012-2013 season was cut short by a wrist injury, he should also have a job to lose in September under Vigneault.  Miller’s game is very much a work in progress – he was guilty of some horrible defensive mistakes and didn’t contribute much offensively, but Miller looked like he belonged in the NHL.  He’s proven to be a very quick study all along and will be expected to continue his growth as a Ranger next season. Read more »

Intriguing Rangers prospects

Obviously we have no idea yet whether there will be a 2012/13 NHL season starting on time, a training camp or a pre-season. Hey, right now we have no idea whether there will be regular season play at all. Regardless, there are plenty of prospects in the organisation that offer legitimate intrigue. Whether they will be fighting for NHL jobs, making waves with the Connecticut Whale or sent back to junior/college there is still plenty to keep an eye on. A few intrigue me more than others.

Brady Skjei

With Tim Erixon traded, eternal patient Michael Sauer still hurt and Dylan McIlrath doing his best to provide Sauer with some company in the treatment room the Rangers defensive depth looks shakier – both short and long term – than it had done just six months ago; all this despite an envious top four at the NHL level. Enter Skjei.

Unfortunately for Skjei, the aforementioned issues at the defense position for the Rangers may mean more of a spotlight shining on the Wisconsin prospect than he may have hoped/expected. Thanks to a promising evaluation camp for Team USA this summer, many eyes will be on Skjei to see how he develops within the powerhouse Wisconsin programme.

Skjei is possibly the most important prospect in the entire organisation – assuming you take it for granted that Chris Kreider has ‘graduated’ to the Rangers full time. The Rangers need Skjei to develop well. Not just because he’s a first round pick but because the club need some defensive prospects to step up in the near future. His season will be interesting to follow.

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Musings: The Rangers shouldn’t draft a goalie in the first round

Fuss about Fogarty?

2011 third-round pick Steven Fogarty didn’t get a whole lot of attention this year because of the rise of Chris Kreider and stunning point total of Michael St. Croix, but the Penticton Vee had a monster season in his own right.  Fogarty will attend the University of Notre Dame next year where he’ll be more in the spotlight. I’ll bet he’s the surprise prospect we’re all discussing this time next year and there will be brief discussion of his chances of making the team in 2013.  He still needs a couple more seasons of development, but Fogarty may put himself on the fast track sooner than we were led to believe.

Lightning acquire Lindback

I don’t think Tampa Bay’s acquisition of goalie Anders Lindback got enough attention last week.  Remember, the Lightning were one win away from the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals before falling apart this season, in large part due to lackluster goaltending.  Lindback is relatively unproven, but in a small sample size he has shown the potential to be a solid starter.  He could be the difference between a lottery pick and a playoff berth for Tampa.

Nashville will undoubtedly unearth a couple of All-Stars with the draft picks they received from Tampa, but the Lightning did well to hold on to their two first-rounders (#10 and #19 overall).  I think the trade also marks the end of Dwayne Roloson’s NHL career and it opens the door for Toronto to get Roberto Luongo.

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Where the forward prospects stand

Before Friday’s draft it’s a good idea to take stock of what the Rangers already have in the system.  If New York follows suit, then the Blueshirts will pick the best player available regardless of position.  However, it’s worth evaluating where the team’s strengths lie, starting with a status update for the organization’s forwards.

Jonathan Audy-Marchessault

J.A.M. burst onto the scene in 2011-2012 with a surprisingly strong showing at the Traverse City Tournament in September and he was only just getting started.  Ryan Bourque’s old teammate with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts earned a one-year contract with the Whale and made the most of the opportunity.  He battled for the team points lead all season and finished with 64 (24 goals, 40 assists), tied for the team lead and good for third among AHL rookies.  Audy-Marchessault still faces an uphill climb to the NHL thanks to his (listed) 5-foot-9, 175-pound frame, but he is much closer to achieving his dream than he was a year ago.  The bad news is that J.A.M. may not even be Rangers’ property come July; the 21-year-old is an unrestricted free agent and may prefer to sign with a club that could better use his services.  It’s hard to see exactly where Audy-Marchessault fits in the prospect depth chart and he’d likely garner several other offers following his banner year.  GM Glen Sather will surely offer J.A.M. a contract, but the rest is up to him.

Ryan Bourque

Bourque was one of the last cuts at training camp but disappeared for the first chunk of the season with Connecticut after suffering a concussion in his third game.  He drew little attention the rest of the way because of his irrelevant offensive production (six goals and eight assists in 69 games), but suddenly Bourque was in the spotlight again as the Whale began its playoff run.  Bourque was one player that noticeably raised his game in the postseason and even contributed a bit more offensively with two goals and an assist in nine postseason games.  It’s tough to imagine Bourque being much of a scorer at the NHL level, but he has a very well-rounded game, is a terrific skater and is a major pest on the forecheck, qualities that could endear him to the Rangers’ coaching staff sooner than some of the organization’s more touted prospects.  Bourque’s confidence is surely higher after a strong late season push and since he was one of the last cuts last year, it stands to reason that he could push very hard for a bottom-six role in New York next year.

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Just Like Dan?

Remember when Dan Girardi was an unheralded, undrafted, free agent nobody? Remember when he was playing ECHL hockey, then got an unnoticed promotion to the AHL and then an unlikely shot at the NHL? Yeah, that worked out pretty well for Mr Girardi didn’t it? Hope you’re enjoying that multimillion dollar contract Dan.

They’re don’t play the same position, aren’t the same stature, didn’t play in the same junior league and are at different stages of their careers but there’s some kind of potential parallel between Dan Girardi and the wonderfully named Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, aka JAM.

This season, in relative obscurity amid the Rangers impressive season, there is a little forward making waves in the AHL for the CT Whale who may be on his way to earning a shot at the NHL if he keeps his recent play going. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault has been an offensive surprise for the Whale this season – to the tune of 25 points in 29 games (good for the club lead) – and is getting better game by game.

Consider the AHL rookie, undrafted like Dan Girardi, began his first pro season scoreless in his five games as he got his feet wet and JAM is a point/game player for the majority of his first pro year. Impressive stuff. All this leads to the question of NHL/Rangers potential. Can eventually he make the jump?

Good friend of the blog, Brian Ring of the CT Whale, has seen JAM a lot this season. So what does Brian think of JAM, now and in the future?

I think the Girardi comparison is fair, as you’ve already noted they play different positions and are obviously of different build. They both, however, were maybe a bit overlooked before joining the professional ranks.

Audy-Marchessault has had an immediate impact on the Connecticut Whale, and as of this writing, he leads the team in scoring with 28 points on the season (10-18-28) in 31 games. With the call-ups to Hagelin and Mitchell, he has been getting the majority of his ice time on the top line with Kris Newbury and Andre Deveaux, who have also served as the primary power-play unit.

He couldn’t have landed in a better spot to debut as a professional, playing with former Quebec Remparts teammates Kelsey Tessier and Ryan Bourque. Tessier, a bilingual, not only helps JAM with his English but as a second-year pro knows the ropes as far as playing in the AHL and living in the Hartford area. Bourque is also surely a comfort as they go through the transition to the professional ranks together.

In his first extended time away from home, Audy-Marchessault has excelled and obviously adjusted quite well. He had his break-out game during a home-and-home set with one of the Whale’s most bitter rivals, the Springfield Falcons, on Oct. 22-23. He netted his first pro goal at Springfield, a third period equalizer, before tallying three points (1-2-3) the next night against the Falcons. The Whale won both games.

Since then, he’s been one of the most consistent Whale forwards, tallying 13 points in 11 November games and 10 points in 11 December games (two remain). He is third among rookie scorers in the AHL, eight points behind Norfolk’s Cory Conacher for the lead.

I don’t think there’s much question of whether or not he will make the jump to the next level or not. The ability and desire is certainly there and his tools are great, size hasn’t been an issue as he has withstood the punishment of nearly a half season without a problem. P.A. Parenteau has a size advantage over JAM, however Audy-Marchessault reminds me of him quite a bit. Look for him to add size and strength over the coming months as he continues to hone his professional game.

Following his quick rise to becoming a player relied upon for offense on a strong AHL club it seems JAM has a lot of potential and a promising future. It seems the Ranger scouting and player development may have found another gem.

Big thanks to Brian Ring for his contribution. For more updates on both JAM’s progress and the club as a whole be sure to check the Whale’s website as well twitter for as great insights from Brian and the Whale .

Whale Watch: Hot Hagelin

The CT Whale enter this weekend with a 1-1-2 record, similar to the Rangers but with two shootout losses on the books. For the first time this season the Whale will play a three-in-three days stretch over the weekend. This will be pretty new territory for some of the prospects on the team and without leading scorer and veteran leader Kris Newbury (tied for 2nd in the AHL in points) it will be interesting to see how the team reacts.

Up Next:

  • Friday: Manchester travel to the XL arena to take on the Whale with a 3-3 record after 6
  • Saturday: The Whale travel to Springfield to take on the Falcons who have a 3-2 record in 5
  • Sunday: Sunday sees the Whale entertain Springfield in the back end of a home and home.

Prospect Watch

Carl Hagelin has begun his campaign in impressive style. With 4 points in 4 games, an impressive +5 rating and a shorthanded goal to his name statistically speaking it couldn’t be much better for the young Swede. Hagelin has been displaying his impressive speed aplenty and will be needed to lead the offense this weekend with Newbury missing.

Chad Johnson has begun the year brilliantly and is pretty unfortunate to only have one win to his name thus far. With a 1-0-2 record the netminder still boasts a .939 save percentage and 1.85 goals against average. Bear in mind his sole victory was a 1-0 shootout win and Johnson hasn’t had much offensive support. If he gets that support the team can certainly rely on their goalie at the moment.

Aside from Hagelin, of all the (young) prospects on the Whale only Tomas Kundratek has a point to claim as his own. With one assist in 4 games the young blueliner is off to a relatively muted start and only has 2 shots through 4 games.

Ryan Bourque has already missed a game with illness/injury and in 3 games is scoreless and -2 thus far. Again noting Newbury’s absence, Bourque should have more ice time if he’s in the line-up.

Avery Factor

The circus comes to town this weekend and it will be interesting for several reasons; will Avery be a positive factor or a major distraction? Will he even be able to suit up this weekend (indications are that he will). If Avery plays he should be a difference maker at this level and could be an interesting addition to Hagelin’s line or, if Bourque moves to center on his line. Hopefully the Avery ‘addition’ to Connecticut won’t be the only storyline of their weekend.

Thoughts On A Mixed Start for the Whale

The start of the hockey season also meant the start of the regular season for the Rangers affiliate, the CT Whale. The first pair of games produced a 1-1 record as the team lost 6-3 to Adirondack, after which the Whale rebounded with a 1-0 shootout win over Wilkes-Barre. Several players with Rangers hopes stood out over the first weekend’s play, and not all for the right reasons. Here’s a quick look at some of the notables;

The Good

  • Chad Johnson made the very most of his first start. After the Whale lost their first game it was Johnson who was charged with holding the fort and he did so in spectacular style. Making 41 saves to earn the 1-0 shutout/shootout win Johnson immediately has a leg up on his competition. Given his uncertain status over the summer Johnson’s performance couldn’t have been better timed.
  • Kris Newbury. Is he a ‘tweener’? Is he a career AHL’er? Newbury has a lot of NHL experience and at times has proved useful to the Rangers too. However he has never had the offensive impact in the big league like he has in the AHL. An opening night hat-trick last Saturday was followed up by being one of the more active Whaler players in the 1-0 win on Sunday. A great start to the year for Newbury and he offered a reminder to the Rangers brass what he can do.
  • Carl Hagelin. Over the first two games he may have been scoreless but a +1, to go with 6 shots and being a constant presence offensively, Hagelin has made a solid start. If he keeps the shot count up he’ll put up the numbers too.

The Bad

  • Cam Talbot will have wished for a better start than to concede 5 goals on 23 shots in his first start of what figured to be a timeshare in CT, especially given his solid preseason. With Johnson following that up with his 41 save shutout Talbot couldn’t have wished for a worse start personally.
  • Ryan Bourque and John Mitchell will be expected to be key players for the Whale, especially if both want to force promotion to the Rangers this year. Bourque started -2 with just a pair of shots to his name while Mitchell is already a -3 for the year despite notching an assist. Both players will look for better luck this weekend.

 The Ugly

  • Wade Redden’s season opener couldn’t have gone worse; the veteran blueliner came off the ice a -4 and has already taken two penalties this season to boot. A key (the key?) part of the Whale blueline while he remains Rangers property, Redden will need to be better if this team intends on making noise this season.

Next Up:

The baby Rangers face a pair of familiar foes this weekend. First up is a trip to Albany to face the Baby Devils on Friday night while Saturday night sees the Whale entertain Bridgeport as the baby Islanders come to town. Both games are divisional match-ups in the Northeast division as the Whale will seek to make it three losses in a row for the Devils. The Whale will look to bypass the Sound Tigers (who have the same record as the Whale) over the weekend too. Two wins would make it a solid start to the year for the Whale (especially given last year’s start) and would be especially impressive given the high amount of new talent being incorporated into the line-up.

Artie or Stepan…. Or Both?

This post is pretty inflammatory as I’m fully aware there is currently room for both players on the roster but depending on how the season goes for both young players (and for some prospects as well) there may be an interesting decision looming for the Rangers in the relatively near future.

Artem Anisimov has developed steadily, if perhaps a little slowly. However, if his pre-season is anything to go by he seems primed for a really impressive season. He is of course in possession of a new contract; confidence from your employers does wonders for your own confidence, in any walk of life. Then there is Derek Stepan, who was at times a revelation as a rookie and seems more mature than his age should allow. Stepan too has had a solid pre-season but his place on the roster (not security, but rather location) seems more in-flux than Anisimov’s.

There is a danger that one of these players could severely out play the other this season, although competition is a good thing. It’s healthy. However, when you consider the spots up for grabs beyond this season maybe the two players are auditioning – to an extent. Captain Ryan Callahan is here to stay, the team have committed long term to Brad Richards, Brandon Dubinsky and (barring a disastrous year) Marian Gaborik. There aren’t many top six spots to give out after this year especially with the Dubinsky – Anisimov – Callahan line looking like a keeper, although with John Tortorella that’s never a certainty.

Now, throw into the mix the much anticipated arrival next year of the likes of Chris Kreider, Christian Thomas, maybe a Ryan Bourque or Carl Hagelin and given his impressive first camp, JT Miller. Just to name a few. Is it therefore possible that one of Stepan (who really needs to improve his face off skills) or Anisimov (who still needs to add muscle) could become moveable? Could they be rendered unnecessary?

Naturally this is hypothetical at this stage and as discussed, depth and competition for places is a nice problem to have. It’s also the product of good drafting. However it is worth considering that two very, very popular young, home-grown Rangers are playing for their futures, against each other – alongside each other this season. Room for both long-term? Maybe.  It’s just another little sub-plot to consider during the season.

Training Camp Full of Questions

Training Camp Is Here.  Training camp starts today and day 1 is the day that all the players fear the most. As some of the beat writers have already discussed, day one is basically ‘The Test’. It’s where Coach Tortorella runs his players in to the ground. Torts’ camps are legendary and it all begins with the first day. That said, training camp is about so much more for the team than just fitness. Here are a few things that are worth monitoring going through camp.

How many rookies will force their way on to the roster?

The Rangers camp will be different this year because of the European trip.  It affects how many players the Rangers take to Europe with them and could influence how many rookies/prospects have a legitimate chance to make the team from the outset. Tim Erixon seems to have a spot to lose; he’d have to be seriously outplayed by at least 2 players or show that he isn’t physically ready for a Torts camp.

Carl Hagelin has a legitimate chance to make his Rangers debut in his homeland too. He showed skill and great speed in Traverse but his immediate future may be tied to the upcoming camp performances of Christensen and Avery.

The dark horse, which I have maintained all along, is Ryan Bourque. Bourque remained relatively healthy last season and followed up that with a good, if not great Traverse City tourney. He displayed speed and a lot of skill to go with his undoubted team first attitude and terrific work ethic. He seems an ideal option if the Rangers insist on going younger in the bottom 6.

Beyond the Swedes and the Hall of Famer’s son, it would take a remarkable training camp for another rookie to force his way on to the plane to Sweden. The Rangers have a ton of depth but not a lot of vacancies (despite a lot of talent developing in the system) so aren’t likely to rush any prospects unless their play demands promotion.

Join us after the jump for plenty more camp questions.

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Ryan Bourque: A Ranger in 2011?

Amid all the players battling for a roster spot this September one player that could surprise Rangers fans might be Ryan Bourque but what do the Rangers have at their disposal in the Hall of Famer’s son? Bourque could be a great option for the bottom six given his brand of hockey and could be one to look out for.

Bourque’s style fits well with the way the Rangers played last season but he needs to stay healthy. When Bourque did play he contributed offensively grabbing 59 points in 49 games for the Remparts in the QMJHL last season.  However it’s the way he plays the game that could give Ray Bourque’s son a chance to break the roster straight away.

While guys like Christian Thomas are being (rightfully) touted as dark horses to crack the line up there doesn’t seem an ideal fit given the competition and an offensive player like Thomas needs top 6 minutes which doesn’t seem likely. Bourque however, can play a bottom six role, help establish a forecheck and provide a bit of offensive on occasion too.

Bourque may be a good option on Brian Boyle’s line if Tortorella decides to break up the Fedotenko –Boyle – Prust trio. Replacing Fedotenko with Bourque gives the line more speed, more offensive upside and in turn Boyle and Prust can help protect the smallish rookie winger. It seems a win-win scenario.  However, is Bourque ready for prime time hockey in his first season as a pro?

Every time Bourque has stepped up a level he has seemingly succeeded. Having played effectively for US U-18 squads, Bourque played two solid years as a Quebec Rempart. During that time Bourque played for the US WJC team twice where his role was more of a defensive one. He played effectively in a checking role playing a key role in helping the US team earn gold in 2010 proving he can adapt to a different role as well as handle elite competition.

Are there roster spots up for grabs? There may not be a spot to have, depending on how secure you think Sean Avery, Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen are on the current roster. If one or two of them can be outplayed then a rookie like Bourque can make it with a strong camp. Indeed, if Wolski and Christensen aren’t deemed worthy of top 6 spots then Bourque is a better fit on the lower lines anyway.

In recent times the Rangers have given chances to players if they have earned them. Mike Sauer forced the Rangers to keep him on the roster last season and Derek Stepan bypassed the minors thanks to an impressive display of skill and maturity. Starting in Traverse City where he’ll need to have a strong showing Bourque isn’t without hope to crack the Rangers line up and he’d be a good story to follow if he makes it.