ROCHESTER -- They've made it this far, so one has to wonder how high the ceiling is for Alexandre Burrows and Rick Rypien now.
On Wednesday, the two undrafted, free agent pick-ups of the Manitoba Moose officially became members of the Vancouver Canucks family, signing two-way contracts with the NHL club.
And while it's no shock the Canucks stepped up on Burrows, what with his in-your-face play last year and his nice start to this season (he's tied with Josh Green for the Moose scoring lead with 10 points), Rypien's deal is surprising.
But he's a 21-year-old longshot who's starting to show signs of paying off.
"It's happened all pretty quick," the centre said yesterday of his whirlwind 2005, from ending his WHL career with Regina to immediately signing an amateur tryout contract with the Moose to inking an AHL deal with the club in the summer.
"Not too long ago I was trying to crack the Moose lineup," he added. "It's a pretty exciting time in my life right now, but there's still a lot of work to be done."
If watching players get the call up to the parent team on a daily basis wasn't enough motivation to keep grinding it out for Rypien and Burrows, these deals should give them an extra shot in the arm regarding their pro hockey futures.
Anything can happen. Anything already has.
"Knowing that I'm that much closer to where I want to be, it will push me to be more determined, that much more focused," Rypien said.
Alain Vigneault figured deals were coming when the brass saw the two players at Vancouver training camps.
"They caught everyone's attention with their hard work," the Moose coach said. "Those guys did what they had to do for Vancouver to notice them."
And thus completing the next step in a series of remarkable moves.
Here are two guys who weren't drafted by an organization, toiling under the NHL radar in junior and the ECHL and who were asked to come to Manitoba for a look.
The man responsible for mining the talent?
The Moose general manager has worn a lot of different hats during his time in professional hockey in Winnipeg and this latest one, as scout, has obviously impressed the Canucks brass.
"(Burrows and Rypien) owe a great deal to Zinger," said Vigneault. "I mean, you sometimes have guys who get drafted that never play a game (in the AHL). Full credit to what he's done."
ON THE ICE: Four down, three to go.
Manitoba begins the second leg of this current seven-game road trip against the Rochester Americans at the Blue Cross Arena tonight (6:35 p.m.).
Some Amerks players will be looking for a little payback, as the Moose ousted Rochester in last season's Calder Cup playoffs.
It's a premise the Moose players are already familiar with.
"When we went into Chicago a couple weeks ago, we really played hard and we really wanted to win that game," Burrows said of the 3-1 Moose win against the Wolves last month.
It's expected the Moose will have Sven Butenschon for the game against the Amerks. The defenceman was officially recalled by the Canucks prior to their game with Colorado last night, but will most likely rejoin the Moose today.