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Top three picks eager to grow up together

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
By Jim Cerny,

To find the Rangers’ top three picks from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft during the team’s Prospect Development Camp in the first week of July, all one had to do was look on the ice, find one of them, and the other two were surely to be close by.

Chris Kreider, the Rangers' No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, will enter Boston College this fall and play as a true freshman.
Whether it was during line rushes or in scrimmages at the Rangers Training Center, the coaches made sure to combine the Rangers’ top three draft choices -- Chris Kreider, Ethan Werek, and Ryan Bourque -- on the same forward line, providing a glimpse of what could be in the not-too-distant future.

Werek, a second round pick out of Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League, centered Kreider -- the Rangers’ first round selection -- and Bourque -- who was chosen in the third round by the Blueshirts -- throughout the week-long camp.

“It was a lot of fun,” Werek said of the prospects camp in general, and of playing with Kreider and Bourque in particular. “All of this has happened so quickly, but I am really excited to be here with these guys.”

Gordie Clark, the Rangers’ Director, Player Personnel, had stated at the draft in Montreal that he believed New York had acquired the “two hardest workers” in the draft -- referring to Werek and Bourque -- and “the fastest kid in the draft” in Kreider. Those assessments were backed up by the play of the three players during the early July camp in Westchester.

Kreider displayed a very smooth-skating style and an elite burst of speed that was unmatched by the other players present. He also showed a soft pair of hands and an impressive wrist shot.

Bourque also displayed tremendous acceleration with his skating, as well as a quick pair of hands from in-close to the net. He lived up to billing, along with Werek, as to having an excellent work ethic, as well.

Ethan Werek had a breakout year in Kingston of the OHL this past season and will look to put up even bigger numbers under head coach Doug Gilmour.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Werek was his serious and mature demeanor on the ice. Though it was only a small glimpse, it seems as though the Rangers may have found themselves a future leader in Werek.

“It’s something that is just natural to me,” explained the 18 year-old Werek, a native of Markham, Ontario. “My mentality is that if I am doing something I am going to give 100 percent in doing it or else there is no use in doing it.”

Although the three youngsters spent much of their time together at the prospects camp, there were times when they actually were not together.

Kreider, for example, often stayed after practice to work with Evgeny Grachev, the Rangers’ talented second-round pick in the 2008 draft, on different passing plays and set ups against unfortunate goaltenders. And Werek teamed up with the club’s first-rounder from 2008, defenseman Michael Del Zotto, in several post-practice ping pong tournaments.

It is expected that all three players will head in different directions this upcoming season to continue their respective development. Kreider, who starred in prep school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass the last two years, will enter the collegiate ranks and will attend Boston College this fall.

“I definitely hope to go there and improve on everything in my game,” said Kreider, an 18 year-old native of Boxford, Mass. “Specifically I want to improve on my defensive zone play. I want to rid myself of some little bad habits, and just develop as a player as a whole.”

Ryan Bourque will get a chance to test his skills in the QMJHL -- the league in which his father played before the NHL.
While Werek will return to play for Kingston, seeking to improve upon a 32-goal, 64-point season from a year ago, Bourque will enter the major-junior ranks for the first time. The Massachusetts native played in the United States Developmental Program a year ago, compiling 20 goals and 46 points in 48 games. This season, Bourque will play for the Quebec Remparts and the legendary Patrick Roy in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“It should be a pretty good jump,” noted Bourque, the son of Hall-of-Fame defenseman Raymond Bourque. “I think it fits my game pretty well with the speed and the offense. I felt going there was better for my development, with the atmosphere and coach Roy, and the success that he’s had with his players the past few years. I’m excited to get going.”

Though the threesome will head in different directions this season, each will take with him the shared experiences and lessons learned from the week-long prospects camp. And they have the shared advantage of knowing what is expected of them by John Tortorella and his coaching staff when it is their turn to challenge for spots with the varsity.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, good conditioning,” said Werek. “Being up from Canada and seeing (Tortorella) on TSN for a while, you really kind of know his attitude. You better come to work with no messing around. And I am pretty excited for that.”
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