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Posts tagged: Ryan Bourque

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.

Which Rangers Prospect Has Greatest Expectancy Next Season

While Evgeny Grachev wasn’t the top rated Rangers prospect last season he was perhaps, given all the circumstances surrounding him (and his career progression – or lack of it) the one player with the most eyes on him among media and fans alike. Grachev was (and still is, until the new season draws closer) our recent most ‘Prospect Watch’ player on the website – see the Grachev Watch box.

From being drafted to dominating in the OHL to making a quick ascent to the pro ranks many, many fans expected Grachev to quickly establish himself in the system and indeed, as a Ranger. Prospect websites were touting him a blue chip prospect and he was routinely expected to firm up a place in the NHL, but that never happened. Today, Grachev is no longer a Ranger and perhaps a victim of the burden of expectancy.

Next season the Rangers have numerous prospects potentially taking the next step. Where those next steps take them however – at this stage – is anyone’s guess. Among the prospects with a ton of expectancy surrounding them are Swedish pair Carl Hagelin and Tim Erixon (straight to NYC?), as well as prospects JT Miller (given the controversy surrounding his league move), Oscar Lindberg, AHL mainstay Dale Weise (last chance saloon?) and WJC stars Jesper Fasth and Chris Kreider.

Which player will be most closely watched? Which prospect do you want Blue Seat Blogs to follow the most? –using the prospect watch section. You may be most intrigued by recent draftees like Shane McColgan (can he get back to the level which had him tabbed as a first rounder) or Mike St Croix and/or Steve Fogarty.

The Rangers are in a great situation these days. The above named group of prospects are just a small handful of Rangers prospects worth monitoring over the coming season. The Rangers are blessed with depth in almost every position both at the NHL level and below. We’ll be keeping tabs on all the Rangers prospects including Dylan McIlrath and Ryan Bourque as well. Just let us know who you’re most interested in the comments section. Have at it, we’ll check in a few times ahead of training camp.

Free Agency Musings!

It’s Musings Thursday. The day before Free Agency so that makes this the Free Agent edition of Musings. See what I did there? I’m a genius I tell thee….

I wanted to tell you all that today was Christmas Eve and that we would all be excited like little children for tomorrow morning. Someone got to it before me but the thought remains. I’m so excited. Are you?

Inconvenient: I’m moving apartments tomorrow. Location is a massive upgrade but in terms of Free Agency it’s a huge pain in the ass. Moving all my stuff to a place with no internet connection for two weeks on free agency day? Sweet Jesus! My dad is getting an unexpected visitor tomorrow as I use and abuse his internet connection all day. No way do I miss Free Agency day.

Brad Richards. Everyone has taken their guess at where he goes, for how long and most importantly for how much. I think the Rangers offer him 6 years and 42 million. Does he take it? I think so but the Rangers (in my humble opinion) will not be competing against themselves even if they are the best fit.

Random moment of the day: Driving to the garage to get my car fixed – for the second time in a week! – and a Mercedes drove past me with the private licence plate: CD NMC.  I kid you not. Has Chris Drury and his No Movement Clause come all the way over to the UK to get away from it all?

Fact: The Rangers will be considerably better after July 1st than it is today. Of that, I am convinced.

Over/Under on Rangers free agent signings? With the over/under being 2 I’m saying over. I think they bring in two new faces (including Mr Richards) and bring back one of their own free agents.

A few players have got new (temporary?) homes this past few days. Let’s discuss them. James Wisniewski; I know a lot of you guys wanted him on the Rangers but the defense (barring a depth addition) is set. The West got tougher though, because if Columbus can sign him up and they have Carter to go with Nash then this team is definitely a playoff team in my opinion. Or is it? The West remains stacked.

Christian Ehrhoff; First the Isles and now the Sabres. First things first he is a good defenseman that is about to be handsomely overpaid. I know plenty of people will have laughed at the Islanders inability to sign him but in the end it didn’t cost them to try so kudos for being aggressive. Speaking of aggressive, if the Sabres sign him they become much better. Given the new owners ambition don’t rule them out of the Richards sweepstakes, assuming BR would be willing to play there.

  • You want examples of Free Agency being shallow this year? The deals for Tomas Kopecky, Chad Larose and David Jones were very generous to say the least, especially Kopecky’s.

Jaromir Jagr. He loves the attention doesn’t he? If he signs with the Pens that’s bad news for the Rangers as he’s in the division and makes the Pens much better. They say the deal is stalling. Some say it’s because he wants to come back to New York. This is the guy that was the first hockey $100m earner. If I’m Sather I welcome him back IF he will play for league minimum. Money shouldn’t be a factor for him.

Beyond Free Agency: Prospect Camp has been interesting. A lot of players have impressed. Andrew Yogan looks like a keeper; strong on the puck with good size. He’ll impress for the Whale if he plays a full year there. Ryan Bourque has impressed, Fasth and Thomas are scoring goals, McIlrath is playing both ends of the ice well and Erixon has displayed some slick puck movement. All bodes well.

On McIlrath: He’s taking responsibility over? Hard to gauge amongst fellow kids but the fact the player covets the role of leader bodes well. If he can improve his skating he may be in New York sooner rather than later. I had him tabbed for the MSG no earlier than 2 more years but if he’s growing as a personality and his skating catches up to his size is it a long shot that he makes it next year? Not at all.

  • Hall of Fame Selection: I may be biased but I think Eric Lindros deserves entry eventually. This year’s class was a good one though and given the candidates next year he’s going to have to wait a while longer. Does Pavel Bure deserve it? Yes.

Good luck in retirement to Todd Marchant and Paul Kariya. In very different ways both were very good NHL’ers. Kariya for a while was truly elite while Marchant is an ex Ranger.

I purposely got to the end of this Musings post without discussing the Chris Drury buy-out. I’m the bigger man! Enjoy Free Agency people. Fingers crossed!! Go RANGERS (welcome, Brad).

 

The Prospect and Whale Low-down (part 2)

Earlier this week we posted the first part of our discussion with Brian Ring and Bob Crawford from the CT Whale. Both men discussed the Connecticut Whale future as well as the prospects that could make their way to the Rangers. Today we have the second part of the discussion with the final part coming in the next few days. Brian and Bob make some really interesting comments throughout the interview and give some attention to some prospects that a lot of readers may not have on their radars for the coming season. Happy reading.

 

Which prospect do you think has the most to prove at training camp next summer?

Bob: I don’t know if you would call him a prospect or an NHLer who experienced a hiccup, but to me Michael Del Zotto is in a position really to help himself at camp.  It’s a new start after sort of a humbling second year of pro, and with what he can contribute on the power play, if he rediscovers a significant bit of his rookie mojo, I think he could easily put himself right back into the mix.

Brian: Evgeny Grachev. I think this is a huge year for him, even though he is still young. It will be important for him to put it all together on a consistent basis, everyone knows that the talent and skill are there. Whether or not he makes the team out of camp, I think it’s important that he puts people on notice and really, I think he will, I think it’s going to be a big production year for him.

With all the new signings and expired contracts, it looks like there is going to be significant roster turnover this summer for the Whale. How does that affect the offseason plans?

Bob: That kind of thing, I find, doesn’t have that much effect on the AHL club.  The affiliate is almost always more affected by who steps up in camp as a surprise to grab a spot, or what kind of injuries or salary cap issues the parent team runs into.  Most AHL veterans, like Jeremy Williams for example, are under one-year contracts, so you naturally expect those guys to come and go as the years go by.

Brian: I don’t think it really changes anything, that kind of turnover is really just a fact of life in this league. Every year we seem to start off with a younger and younger team but they pull together and play winning hockey. Having a young core might mean bringing in a few veterans to complement the presence of Kris Newbury and (likely) Wade Redden, whether that means qualifying John Mitchell or signing another AHL free agent or two. As far as how it affects the front office here directly, it means more tweeting, Facebook posts and press releases, which is always a good thing for public relations exposure and getting the Whale brand out there.

Is there any new signing or acquisition that you are particularly excited to see play for the Whale next season?

Bob: After watching what he was able to help the U.S. National Junior Team achieve, knowing his bloodlines and having seen his older brother play very effectively in the AHL, and knowing his Junior accomplishments, I am eager to see what kind of pro player Ryan Bourque can be, if he ends up with the Whale.

Brian: I’m pretty excited to see Carl Hagelin play a full season as I’m sure many fans of Rangers prospects are. We only got to see him in a couple playoff games last year since he helped take Michigan to the Frozen Four, but he looked good in that limited action. Also excited to see Ryan Bourque and Tim Erixon, should those guys play here next season. I don’t want to omit anybody because I always like seeing prospects come in, but those are just the guys that come to mind first.

 

Again, a big thanks to Bob Crawford and Brian Ring of the Connecticut Whale for taking their time to provide their unique insight into the Whale and the Rangers prospects. Check back throughout the week for more great insight about the Rangers biggest prospects and how the guys at the Whale expect the AHL club and their prospects to fare during the coming season! Make sure you follow Brian and the Whale on twitter at @brianring and @CTWhale!

HF: Rangers “Loaded” In Juniors

The Rangers upper management sure has been busy this month.  In all, the Rangers have signed six prospects out of the Canadian Juniors, with only one eligible player (Dan Maggio) remaining unsigned.  Leslie Treff at HockeysFuture took an in-depth look at the nine prospects that the Rangers had in juniors, which includes the six signed and three unsigned (including Maggio).  Treff predicts that only one player has a legitimate shot at making the club next year (Christian Thomas), while another top prospect (Dylan McIlrath) is likely headed back to Juniors.

It’s tough to disagree with Leslie here when it comes to where the prospects wind up.  Due to age restrictions, Thomas is either going to play for the Rangers or return to the OHL.  At the risk of repeating myself, I still think he makes the squad outright.  McIlrath is also a lock to be returned to the WHL.  As for the other players that signed (Ryan Bourque, Roman Horak, Scott Stajcer, Jason Wilson), all four will be spending at least one season with the CT Whale, as Leslie states in her article.

Where things get interesting are with Maggio, Randy McNaught, and Andrew Yogan. Treff states that Maggio likely will not be offered a contract, which means the Rangers rights to sign him will expire next week.  I am a little disappointed to hear that, because once Maggio was traded to Oshawa (Thomas’ club), he showed vast improvement in his game.  I was hoping he would be signed, and to be honest, I assumed he would be.  However, it appears that the Rangers are done signing their prospects, which leaves him out of the bigger picture.

McNaught, who was initially drafted to be a tough guy for the Rangers, he suffered a sever ankle injury that required surgery.  With last season being his over-age season in Canadian Juniors, he cannot return there next year.  Treff states that he likely will not be given an entry level deal because of this.

As for Yogan, the Rangers will retain his rights for at least another year, as he was a 2010 draftee who was not in his overage year in the CHL.  Yogan has talent, but his shoulder injury really hampered the Rangers decision making ability.  He played well in his ATO with the CT Whale this year, registering three points in two games.  With the Rangers approaching the 50 contract limit, there is no need to sign Yogan now, especially when there is a significant shoulder issue.

In regards to long-term development of these prospects, Thomas is the only one likely to be with the Rangers next season.  McIlrath is also going to be a Ranger at some point (barring a significant trade).  Stajcer’s path is blocked by Henrik Lundqvist, so the best case scenario is that he becomes either a viable backup for The King.  Bourque, Horak, and Wilson will likely be in CT for at least a season and a half, possibly longer.  None really project out to be top-six guys at the NHL level.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t useful pieces though.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them packaged in a bigger deal.

Rangers Sign Ryan Bourque (Update: And Dylan McIlrath)

As per CapGeek, the Rangers have come to terms with 2009 third round draft pick Ryan Bourque. Bourque has had two excellent seasons with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, averaging a point per game in his two seasons. This past season, Bourque put together a line of 26-31-57 in 47 games. Many of us had the opportunity to watch Bourque play as a member of Team USA at the World Junior Championships for the past two years, where Bourque had strong showings. Bourque is currently the #11 prospect in the Rangers system, and projects out to be anywhere from a top-six forward to a fourth line player. Similar to Hagelin, Bourque’s speed is his greatest asset, but his size may get in his way.

Bourque signed a three year entry-level deal, which would result in a $656,667 cap hit should he play for the Rangers for the duration of this deal. The deal, like all entry-level deals, is a two-way contract.

Update 4:45pm: The Rangers have also signed 2010 first round draft pick Dylan McIlrath to an entry level contract. Terms of the deal are still unknown, but since it’s entry level, it will be a three year deal.

Both of these signings surprise me a little bit, as both are still too young to play in the NHL. Also, both of these deals give the Rangers the maximum allowable contracts of 50 signed players. That means any deal with Carl Hagelin will have to wait until the Rangers clear a contract.

These signings count towards next year’s 50 contracts, not this year. It still leaves the Rangers with seven open contract spots.

USA, Sweden Fall; Will Play For Bronze

Last night, Team USA saw their hopes of winning two straight gold medals at the World Junior Championships crushed at the hands of an incredibly stacked Team Canada. The USA, featuring Rangers prospects Chris Kreider and Ryan Bourque, played a very lackluster game, and lost 4-1 to the Canadians. The only bright spot for Team USA was goalie Jack Campbell, who stood on his head and was the only reason why this game wasn’t 10-1 at the end. Both Bourque and Kreider played strong games, but the overall play of Team USA left something to be desired.

As for Team Sweden, with Rangers prospect Jesper Fasth, they fell in a shootout to Russia 4-3, and will face USA for the bronze medal. Fasth made the Rangers proud, playing a solid game and netting an assist while playing top line minutes. The bronze medal game will begin at 3:30pm on Wednesday.

All four Ranger prospects, including Roman Horak of the Czech Republic, have played solidly in this tournament. Kreider, Bourque, and Horak are three names you generally hear when talking about Ranger prospects, but Fasth really landed on the map after this tournament. Fasth still has two years left on his contract with the Swedish Elite League, but Kreider, Bourque, and Horak will likely turn pro after their seasons end in the NCAA, QMJHL, and WHL respectively.