-- Early Saturday afternoon, Ryan Bourque
and Jerry D'Amigo
happened to cross paths in the bowels of the Bell Centre. The two teammates from the United States National Team Developmental Program immediately hugged and congratulated each other on being selected in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Bourque, the son of Hall of Fame player Ray Bourque
, was taken by the New York Rangers
at No. 80. D'Amigo, from Binghamton, N.Y., was tabbed by Toronto at No. 158 and was just beginning his post-selection responsibilities as Bourque was finishing up his duties before joining his family for a celebration.
"It was good to give him a hug and congratulate him," D'Amigo told NHL.com after the embrace.
It was also a scene that played out repeatedly throughout Saturday's proceedings. Nine members of the NTDP were chosen Saturday, including six in the second round alone. This after just one member of the NTDP squad -- forward Kyle Palmieri
at No. 26 by Anaheim -- was taken in Friday's first round.
Some of the NTDP players got together after Friday night's first round and discussed the disappointment of not being called.
"We said we were all going to go early (Saturday), hopefully," said Kenny Ryan
, who was taken at No. 50 by the Toronto Maple Leafs
. "A lot of us did and I'm really happy for the guys that did, they are well-deserving of it."
Center Chris Brown
started the NTDP run when he was taken by Phoenix at No. 36. Then it was a three-pick run on NTDP players from No. 43 to No. 45. Defenseman William Wrenn
went first, to San Jose, followed by center Drew Shore
(Florida) and forward Jeremy Morin
(Atlanta). Ryan went at No. 50 and center Kevin Lynch
went to Columbus at No. 56.
"In this draft, probably from pick 20 to pick 50, we just knew a lot of the players were going to go in that range," USA Hockey's assistant executive director of international hockey Jim Johansson told NHL.com. "It just comes down to teams like one guy a little bit over another guy.
"The broad perspective, looking at it, we felt a lot of guys were going to go right in this range here and it was just a matter of what teams had certain needs."
Bourque was the only third-rounder and then the run was concluded by a pair of sixth-round picks: goalie Brandon Maxwell
to Colorado at No. 154 and D'Amigo to Toronto four picks later.
There was a reason the NTDP players were in such demand Saturday, says Toronto GM Brian Burke
. NHL teams appreciate the foundation that the program provides to the players before they go to college or junior hockey. Burke, who selected two NTDP players among his seven draft picks this year, should know as he was on the Board of Directors for USA Hockey when the NTDP was formed in 1996.
"You take the kids from the U-18 (NTDP) team and they all have commitments to schools. They get very concentrated information on weight training and nutrition and, if you look, that has been the biggest single development in the development of hockey players for NHL purposes in the last 20 years.
-- Brian Burke
"You take the kids from the U-18 (NTDP) team and they all have commitments to schools," Burke said. "They get very concentrated information on weight training and nutrition and, if you look, that has been the biggest single development in the development of hockey players for NHL purposes in the last 20 years.
"I think it has produced a steady stream of players for colleges and the NHL."
While USA Hockey would have liked to have seen some of its drafted players go a little bit higher to help raise the profile of the program, Johansson made sure the players understood it was an honor just to be drafted.
"We've tried to train and work with these guys that this is just one phase of their career," Johansson told NHL.com. "It's really what they do from here that controls (their career), not where they were picked or selected. I think a lot of what we try to emphasize is that there are various stages of their development … you are in control of that all the time, but they are not in control of where they get drafted.
"But they can take actions that can put them in better position. Once the draft is over, in all honesty, it's in their hands to make themselves more rounded players and what the organizations are looking for."