Bourque eager to show he belongs

Ryan Bourque of the New York Rangers looks Ryan Bourque of the New York Rangers looks on after he was drafted by the Rangers in the third round during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. (June 27, 2009) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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The pedigree counts, but now Ryan Bourque has to prove himself.

The 20-year-old Rangers center, whose father, Ray, is the Hall of Fame defenseman who starred for 21 years with the Bruins and finally won the Stanley Cup in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche, signed a three-year contract in March.

"If I can be half the player he was, I'll be pretty successful," said Ryan, who was drafted in 2009 and is leading a Rangers prospect team against NHL rivals this weekend in a tournament in Traverse City, Mich. It's the latest step in a turning-pro process that included two-medal winning international tournaments with the U.S. National Development Program.

"Everyone is asking me if it's my fifth or sixth year [at Traverse City], but it's my third year and I've had two good experiences," said Bourque, the Rangers' third-round pick two years ago. "I've been bored at home; I've been excited to go for a few weeks. It's a great stepping stone to your ultimate goal."

Like Bourque, two other Rangers prospects, defenseman Tim Erixon and right wing Christian Thomas, hope to follow in the footsteps of their NHL dads. Jan Erixon played 556 games for the Rangers from 1983 to 1993; Steve Thomas scored 421 goals with seven teams, including the Islanders, in a 20-year career.

Bourque, who grew up in Boxford, Mass., was 26-33-59 in 49 games in his second season with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and has added a few pounds to his 5-9 frame.

The Rangers will take about 30 players to Europe for four exhibition games before opening the season in Stockholm on Oct. 7 against the Los Angeles Kings. With a good tournament and training camp, which opens Friday, Bourque could make the trip.

For now, the focus is on improving his game, which he compares to that of Ryan Callahan and the Devils' Zach Parise: Smaller players whose motors never stop, who aren't afraid to go into the corners and can score. That style, however, has led to several concussions, although Bourque insists his effort won't change.

"You're playing four games in five days in Traverse City, so when you go to camp you're in game shape, that's the best part about it," said Bourque, who knows that the Rangers only will have a few spots open and he might be assigned to AHL Hartford. "You just treat it [the tournament] like any games, don't get too hyped up," he said.

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