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High praise for prospects on Junior team

Former Rangers second-round draft pick Derek Stepan captained

Former Rangers second-round draft pick Derek Stepan captained the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the World Juniors and led the tournament in scoring. (Jan. 5, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Gordie Clark, the Rangers' director of player personnel who was at the World Junior Championships in Canada where the U.S. team won the gold medal, had high praise for the three Rangers prospects on the American squad.

Clark said when center Derek Stepan was drafted in the second round in 2008, they were unaware of his leadership qualities. But as captain of the U.S. team, Stepan, who is attending Wisconsin, was impressive on and off the ice, and "that's a big plus for Derek and us."

Clark said scouts compare Stepan's playmaking skills to Craig Janney (563 assists in 760 NHL games) and Adam Oates (1,079 assists in 1,337 games). "I don't know if I'd put him in that category, but they can make a play at any time to win you a game and that's what he showed," he said. Stepan led all players with 14 points on four goals and 10 assists.

Last summer's first-rounder, speedy center Chris Kreider, tied for the team lead in goals with six. "He came from the weakest level we draft from, prep school, had a half season at Boston College, was out two weeks with a concussion and he impacted the game," Clark said. "He scored on a couple of big-time shots."

Another 2009 draftee, Ryan Bourque, son of former NHL defenseman Ray, is putting up points in juniors in Quebec, but the U.S. coaches "asked him to be on a checking line and kill penalties," Clark said, and that line shut down Canada's top line most of the game.

 

Blue notes

The usual gameday morning skate in Westchester was canceled and John Tortorella said to expect similar scenarios. "We're going to try to get them away from the ice in the mornings in the second half of the year," he said. "It's overrated." . . . Aaron Voros was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game and 13th in the last 15 . . . Vinny Prospal, who had knee surgery Dec. 28, will accompany the team on the trip to Atlanta and Boston but is not ready to skate, Tortorella said.

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