While Ryan Bourque enjoyed his first season as a professional hockey player a year ago with the Connecticut Whale, he is looking forward to this upcoming season even more.
First Bourque is looking to improve on an uneven rookie pro season where he scored just six goals and recorded 14 points in 69 games. And he is also extremely excited to welcome several first-year pros to the Whale this season, players like Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath, Christian Thomas, Andrew Yogan, and JT Miller whom he has bonded with since being selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
"That's huge for me, personally, because I love having that youth movement come in, and I want to help them through their first year," explained Bourque after the second day of Whale training camp at the MSG Training Center on Monday. "Most importantly, I'll have a bunch of youg guys running out there with me and we're going to have a blast together. It's just great having players the same age looking to grow together and develop together."
The current group which will be starting this season together in Hartford is the latest in a succession of young home-grown groups of core players the Rangers are building the franchise around. Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Callahan, and Dan Girardi represent the first-wave of those players currently on the Rangers NHL roster, with Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin representing the most current group.
Now it will be up to the likes of Kreider and Bourque (class of 2009), McIlrath, Thomas, and Yogan (class of 2010), and Miller (class of 2011) to decide which players will form that next wave of core Blueshirts in the near future at the NHL level.
"When you are going in together as a group, a core group of guys that are working their way up together and all pulling for each other, that's huge," stated Bourque, whose father is Hall-of-Fame defenseman Ray Bourque. "What's huge in any sport is that brotherhood aspect, and I think they have done a great job of that here in the Rangers organization. We want to win for each other and want to see the guy next to us succeed."
The 21 year-old Bourque also mentioned that having more players his age on the team this season---a list that also will likely include young-20-somethings Marek Hrivik, Kyle Jean, and Scott Stajcer---will help him relax and enjoy the game even more than last year.
And if he is more relaxed then, perhaps, Bourque can return to the type of offensive numbers he produced when he played in junior hockey. Though always an excellent penalty killer and responsible defensive forward, Bourque also totaled 45 goals over two seasons, 93 games, in the QMJHL.
"Once you get here the pro game is so much different, and you have to pay attention to detail just a whole lot more," offered Bourque. "Taking advantage of the opportunities that do come...you have to capitalize when they are there because you are only going to get a small amount of chances each game. Coming into this year having experienced the ups and downs last season is just huge for me. I'm really excited to improve in all areas."
Bourque and the Whale will practice again on Tuesday at the MSG Training Center before opening up the pre-season schedule against the Worcester Sharks Wednesday night in Cromwall, CT.
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