Sunday, December 27, 2009

Notes from World Junior Championships - USA vs. Slovakia 12/26:

Pre-game notes: Rangers draft picks Ryan Bourque, Chris Kreider, and Derek Stepan took the ice last night for the first game in their quest for gold on Team USA at the WJC in Saskatoon.  Stepan was named the team captain and also centers one of USA's top lines and its top power play unit.  He, Bourque, and Kreider each skate on different lines, but Kreider also sees time on the top PP unit with Stepan.  Luke Walker, who the Rangers brought to the Traverse City prospect tournament in September on a tryout but is currently an unsigned free agent, skates on the 4th line.

WJC TV Schedule (all games on NHL Network):
Sunday, December 27       USA vs. Switzerland      4pm
                                          Czech Rep. vs. Finland   6pm
Tuesday, December 29     USA vs. Latvia               4pm
Thursday, December 31    USA vs. Canada             8pm
(Note: This schedule is only for games involving Rangers prospects.)

click below to read more on the play of the Rangers prospects

This is the first time I have watched any of these 3 particular Rangers prospects play, so I'm going to post my first impressions along with notes on the game.

Derek Stepan (#21, C): Stepan had a very strong game and showed he was worthy of the 'C' that's been placed on his sweater.  He led all scorers with 3 points (1G, 2A), and also had 5 shots on goal and posted a plus-4 rating.  He set up the first USA goal with a clean faceoff win back to John Carlson, scored on a wrister from the slot, and set up the 5th USA goal with a pretty centering pass to Danny Kristo.  He was fairly effective in the faceoff circle and I liked his poise on the puck in the offensive zone.

Chris Kreider (#20): There's a reason Kreider was the top rated skater in the draft...I'd love to see him in a race with Enver Lisin.  Kreider had 5 shots on goal and recorded the primary assist on the 4th USA goal, which became the game-winner.  He likes setting up in the slot or near the faceoff dots during the power play and his speed is very useful on the backcheck.

Ryan Bourque (#17): Bourque is an interesting case to me because of his size (5'8", 163 lbs.).  At times he seems to play a bit like Ryan Callahan in throwing his body around and at times controlling the puck, but Callahan is 5'11", 185 lbs. and that 3 inches and 20 pounds makes a good deal of difference at the elite levels of hockey.  He appears to be a solid skater, but can be bodied off the puck fairly easily.

USA 7, Slovakia 3:  Aside from the Rangers prospects, I was very impressed with Kyle Palmieri (Ducks, 26th overall, 2009) and Jordan Schroeder (Canucks, 22nd, 2009) up front.  Both were selected in the first round, just a few picks after the Rangers picked Chris Kreider 19th overall.  John Carlson (Capitals, 27th, 2008) and Cam Fowler (OHL Windsor Spitfires, eligible for 2010 draft) were equally impressive on the blue line...Luke Walker played an effective 4th line game.  Although he didn't register a point, he was effective on the forecheck and took the body well.

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