Spoke with Evgeny Grachev, Derek Stepan, Ryan Bourque, Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath before they left for Traverse City and their first game Saturday afternoon.

Some excerpts:

After scoring 10 points in four exhibition games with the Quebec Remparts, Bourque said he “hoped to carry some of that momentum” into his second Traverse City tournament.
Besides getting in game shape, the 19-year-old said it helps that that the Remparts are “looking really good; we’re young but we’ve got a lot of potential, we work really hard and I think that’s a good aspect for us to have. The guys I’ve been playing with have made it easy for me.”

Traverse City, he said, is “like an international tournament, there’s a lot of games in a short period of time; it’s tough on the legs, you have to watch the way you eat and sleep.” In last year’s tourney, he learned that “the more pressure you put on yourself, the worse you’re going to play. They’re all good players, so keep it simple and good things will happen. You’re playing with older and stronger guys. I was fortunate enough to come into the main camp last year, the whole experience is just great for your development.” Quebec’s captain last season, Kelsey Tessier, also will be with the Rangers on a tryout.

And looking ahead? “I want to have a really productive season, be the best offensive and defensive player I can be. I had a good season last year but it was a really tough adjustment. This year, I know what to expect…I’m now an assistant captain, so I’ll just try to be a leader and help out the young guys any way I can.”



This will be the Russian’s third Traverse visit. “It makes it easier because you know what the games are gonna be like, but at the same time, it’s more pressure. It’s the third time and you have to show you’re getting better every year, so it’s kind of different.”

Coming to the informal group skates and scrimmages at the MSG Training Center for 10 days “helped me a lot, I worked out with (the training staff), got used to the time difference, and I feel ready to go. I’m hoping to have a good camp again.” Grachev acknowledged that he added some upper body muscle, “My goal was to get stronger, not heavier.”



About being ready for the NHL: “You’ve got to have the confidence to know that you are, there’s got to be a little bit of outside sources saying you can make this step, other than that you’ve just got to mentally say to yourself 'you can make this step', because if you come in saying you’re not ready for it, you’re going to get eaten alive.”

Does he have that mindset? “Absolutely. If not, and my next level is Hartford, then that’s my next level, that’s the mindset you’ve got to have. I’m really excited to get the ball rolling (with Traverse City). Me and McDonagh are both excited, college guys who’ve never played in it, so it’ll be a good first experience.” He’s skated on a line with Grachev, “but there’s just one practice, then it’s go time….Other teams are doing the same thing, Whatever team becomes closest the fastest will have the most success.”



“Just excited. Most importantly, guys say it gets you kind of jump-started for your first training camp.” Asked if he felt he was prepared to make the leap to the NHL, he said: “First and foremost, I wouldn’t have left college if I didn’t think I was ready. I already feel I can play with the bigger, stronger, more veteran guys. It was good that me and (Wisconsin teammate) Stepan got to come out this week and skate with some of the Ranger players and get a feel for what they’re like, and meet some of them, and just start the process. I think it’s getting better every day so far….

As the week went on, guys kind of help you out, to understand how you play the game together….in college, everybody’s playing on big rinks, here things happen quicker, there’s a lot more puck possession stuff, stuff I feel only helps me, because I’m a guy who’s got some size, skating ability and is just solid in his own end.”

McIlrath: “I’ve heard they’re fast-paced games with guys trying to make a name for themselves, and that’s what I’m going to try to do, play my game and have some fun.”

He’s been in Moose Jaw for a couple weeks of training camp but this tournament is another challenge, “with all the top rookies competing for a job. If I’m one of the elites in this tournament, hopefully I can take my game to the main camp, and if not I’ll go back to a great situation in Moose Jaw. If I get the opportunity, I’ll get a bearing of where I am. Being a bigger guy, I’m trying to work on my feet, to get to the pace of the game on the NHL level, and my hands. You can never get enough of both of those things so I’m trying to focus on those two.”


More Rangers

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access