Despite his hockey pedigree, Ryan Bourque
did not really expect to take the world by storm at the 2008 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. After all, the 17-year-old was one of the youngest players and one of the few first-timers at the annual camp.
"I came in here not expecting much," Bourque said during the August camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. "I just wanted to go out there and play and enjoy the experience."
Suffice it to say, Bourque -- the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque
-- enjoyed his camp experience. As well he should have after scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists in 4 tournament games against U-20 teams from Sweden and Finland and opening a number of eyes -- including his own -- during the process.
"Yeah, I've been a little impressed," Bourque said of his performance, which included strong performances in the intra-squad games that opened the week-long camp that will go a long way in determining the team that will represent the United States at the 2009 IIHF U-20 World Championship.
Ron Rolston, who coaches with the United States National Team Developmental Program and will coach Team USA at the World Junior Championship, wasn't overly surprised. Bourque is entering his second year with the NTDP and was a strong player on the U-17 team. Rolston expects big things from Bourque this year.
"He plays with a lot of energy and he has got great speed," said Rolston. "He's made a lot happen with speed. He plays with a lot of tenacity.
"He's probably scored more than maybe we thought; so that might have been a little bit of a surprise. He's finished a lot of plays off and gotten to those areas and made nice plays around the net against older players. That might be a surprise, but in terms of effectiveness of a player, no. He's got the ability."
The fact that he is showcasing that ability for the United States is a pleasant development.
is a Canadian legend who played in numerous international tournaments -- including the 1998 Olympics -- with the maple leaf on his chest.
But Ryan Bourque
was born in Massachusetts while his dad was still early in a career that would make his dad a hero throughout New England and beyond. Ray Bourque
retired after winning the Stanley Cup with Colorado and is the NHL's leading scorer amongst defensemen.
Yet Ryan Bourque
has cast his lot with the American program. Even more shockingly, Ryan Bourque
is a forward, just like his older brother, Chris, a second-year forward with the Washington Capitals
"I had the choice because I'm a dual-citizen," Ryan Bourque
said. "I chose the U.S.; my brother did too. My dad has been supportive the whole time, whichever way we go. He's been watching us play for our country a couple of years now. We actually chose to go this route because we know a lot more guys and we've just become comfortable here."
, who is an A-rated prospect -- projected to go in the first two rounds of the 2009 Entry Draft -- by NHL Central Scouting in its preseason rankings, is so comfortable with his decision that he left prep school -- the prestigious Cushing Academy -- before the start of last season to join the NTDP, a program designed to prepare players for international duty.
"After freshman and sophomore year, it just wasn't the right thing for me," Ryan Bourque
says of Cushing. "It was a great place there and I developed there; it was awesome at Cushing Academy. But it was time for me to move on.
The National Team Developmental Program; the things it can do for your development are second to none. It just helps you mentally and physically -- both on ice and off ice. It's the international experience you get there and college games. Your playing the college season the year before you are supposed to; so it's a pretty good deal there."
has already committed to joining the University of New Hampshire for the 2009-10 season, so he considers his tour through the Division I landscape with the NTDP U-18 team this season as on-the-job training.
"I had the choice because I'm a dual-citizen. I chose the U.S.; my brother did too. My dad has been supportive the whole time, whichever way we go. He's been watching us play for our country a couple of years now. We actually chose to go this route because we know a lot more guys and we've just become comfortable here." -- Ryan Bourque
But he wasn't so optimistic about the NTDP experience when he first reported to Ann Arbor, Mich. -- home of the NTDP -- for his first tour of duty last fall. Ryan thought he knew about being a professional, having been around the game because of his father's NHL career for as long as he can remember. But the NTDP was a wake-up call.
"Your first month there, it's not too fun, but you get used to it after a while," he said. "You're going home every day the first month and you're tired and you just want to cry and go to sleep. After a month or so, you get used to it and it's actually fun going in there with the guys every day."
It also helps with your on-ice game, a fact that Ryan Bourque
began showcasing in Lake Placid this summer and plans to continue highlighting throughout the season -- including a possible trip to the World Junior Championship.