Baby Blueshirts impress at World Juniors

Part of the excitement that surrounds the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is the intrigue of up and coming prospects. The majority of the tournament's major teams (Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the U.S.) sport rosters filled by players drafted by NHL teams but who have yet to make their league debuts. In the bronze medal game, three such prospects selected by the New York Rangers tantalized Blueshirt fans with a very entertaining performance.

For Team USA, Chris Kreider (4 G, 2 A for the tournament) scored a pair of goals, while assistant captain Ryan Bourque added his third assist during his run in Buffalo. Skating for Sweden, Jesper Fasth potted a goal of his own, the center's fourth of the tournament, and finished the two-week tourney with a pair of assists.

Chatting with a few scouts during the course of the week, the consensus seems to be that Kreider (Rd. 1, 2009) and Fasth (Rd. 6, 2010) hold the higher ceilings talent wise, while Bourque brings all the intangibles you could ever want in a player. (Wonder where he learned those?). It's the leadership and grit that makes Bourque, a third-round selection in 2009, an asset. His skill set fits on the third or fourth line though. That according to those who evaluate prospects for a living.

Fasth looked very dynamic skating on a line with the Detroit Red Wings' latest draft gem, Calle Jarnkrok and Kreider's skating made him an absolute blur at times (though his hockey sense was sometimes equally fuzzy, once dumping in the puck while on a 4-on-2 break for the Americans). Overall, he looks like a pretty good package.

In addition to the fleet of NHL scouts, there were other talent evaluators at the tournament ... the ones on the ice. So, following the Sweden-USA bronze medal game, I thought it would be fun to have the players rate each other. I couldn't catch up with Fasth, but here's what Bourque and Kreider had to say.

On Fasth

Bourque: "He’s had a great tournament, very slick on the ice."

Kreider: "He’s fast, extremely talented and actually a little like Ryan [Bourque]. Those guys aren’t huge [Fasth is 6-foot, 176 pounds; Bourque is 5-9, 164], but they certainly play big."

On Kreider

Bourque: "He’s got world class speed. He may be the best skater at the tournament and was really helpful on both sides of the puck today."

Interesting note about that last bit, as you'll see a little lower ...

On Bourque

Kreider: "He’s an underrated leader. He’s almost like a player-coach. On that first goal we allowed, I could have gotten back a little harder but I was looking to the bench instead of back checking. Afterwards he got in my face about it. I was a little taken aback, but I deserved it and I probably needed it. I picked it up after that."

While he's a few years from skating at the Garden, it sounds like Ryan Bourque already shares the Rangers' blue collar mentality.

ESPN Insider's NHL draft guru says the ETA on Kreider coming to Broadway should be about 2012-13, with Fasth and Bourque about a year behind them. If you want to keep tabs on their development, Kreider currently skates for Boston College, while Bourque plays for Quebec in the QMJHL. Fasth is still in Sweden with HV 71.

After this future gazing, we'll be back to our NHL-centric ways tomorrow. But in the meantime, it seems like Rangers fans have something to look forward to.