Imagine for a moment, if you will, one of the greatest hockey players to ever play the game. A true legend at his position, a man who helps revolutionize the way his position was played.
Now imagine being that man's son, and trying to forge out a career in the NHL.
That's Ryan Bourque, the New York Rangers third-round draft selection in 2009, who is currently fighting for a roster spot with the big club this year. Bourque survived the second round of cuts Monday night, and traveled with the team to Europe.
That wouldn't have been possible without a fantastic preseason, highlighted by a brilliant performance in the Traverse City Tournament, which really helped put Bourque on the map. Bourque didn't over think his game before Traverse City, he just wanted to be consistent.
"Mainly I just wanted to go in and be as consistent as I could and bring the same effort for each game," he said. "This year I really wanted to go out and keep the game as simple as possible and play my game and try to be as consistent as possible throughout the tournament. That was my main goal."
Join me after the jump for more.
Bourque, who ended up breaking a Rangers' record for goals and total points ever by a player in Traverse City, had one of the best tournaments on the team, something he is very happy about.
"I was very satisfied with the way I preformed in the tournament," he said. "I was consistent throughout the four games. Obviously it's a tough stretch playing four games in five nights, but it's a blast. I had a lot of fun and I was proud of all the guys in there for finishing in second place."
Bourque attributes being able to train much earlier this offseason as one of the key reasons he has been so successful this year thus far.
"I think first and foremost, my season ended in early April so I was training a lot earlier," he said. "My first year I had to focus on the draft and getting out of high school, and the next year I had the World Junior camp and having the Quebec training camps so I didn't have too much time to train. But this year I had a full three months to train and that was the most important thing to get as strong as I possible could and get in many more workouts, and then in August I skated to get into the best on-ice shape that I could."
Getting into shape is one of the more vital pieces to puzzle, in terms of success for prospects when they enter training camp. Especially John Tortorella's training camp.
The grueling and infamous camp is the first step towards getting a team into elite shape, so they can consistently attack and forecheck all game long. It's one of the biggest transitions a player has to make, aside from the obvious adjustment to an NHL-level style of play.
Bourque thinks experience, coupled with the extra time to train, is one of the main reasons why he had so much success this year.
"I think obviously when you come in your first year you're taken back bye everything, with how difficult and grueling it is," he said. "But your second year you know what to expect and you try to prepare yourself the best you can for that. I think last year I did the best I could for the time I had to train. In terms of the base and the long run, staying in the shape that I am, the training regiment I had this summer will help me out a lot more with that. That's what I wanted to do because it's one of the toughest camps and if you can preform well in that aspect of it you will impress a lot of people."
But you don't just go into camp with the notion that you want to impress people and watch it happen. Training camp isn't just grueling because of the suicide sprints, the two-mile run or the intense scrimmages. It's grueling because you're fighting with friends and teammates for limited roles on a hockey team. Every move, every detail every mistake is marked down and noted.
Every second of film, every missed shot, every goal scored is reviewed to see which prospects have it and which prospects have to wait another year. The pressure is on, it's as simple as that.
Bourque responded to this pressure with flying colors, mainly because of his work ethic but also because of an unrelenting attitude to do whatever it takes to win. If you watched any of the Traverse City Tournament you know what I'm talking about. He blocked shots, beat out icings, scored goals, killed penalties, stood up for his teammates and simply did whatever it took to win. He said earlier in the offseason if he could be like Ryan Callahan he would be happy with his game, he showed that type of determination -- determination which earned Callahan the role of captain this year -- all through camp thus far.
"I think [my style of play] has come naturally for me my whole career," he said. "If I can do the things that [Ryan Callahan] does, I would be more than happy with my progress and my career. Like I said, that just comes with how I was raised and that fire within me. I'm lucky to have the bloodlines that I have with my dad, who is known as one of the greatest competitors of all time, and I try to bring that same aspect of being a competator and trying to do whatever it takes to help your team win a game. If you can bring that every day, and have that attitude every day, you're going to go a long way."
And Bourque already has gone a long way. Entering Traverse City, Bourque wasn't more than just another prospect to fill some lines. Rangers fans were much more excited about J.T. Miller, Tim Erixon, Dylan McIlrath and Christen Thomas.
Bourque skyrocketed to the front of the pack, and is now proving time and time again that he deserves a shot with the big club. If he keeps playing the way he has, that chance might come sooner than he thinks.
Note: There is more from my interview with Ryan, and that story will be posted tomorrow. I also want to thank the New York Rangers for putting me in touch with Bourque and making this interview possible. I hope you all enjoy it.