Chris Bourque's college years lasted only a few months. Boston University, it turned out, didn't offer the major he wanted to pursue.

"I left school because I didn't really like going to class and taking tests and study hall and all that stuff," the Washington Capitals prospect said yesterday at Piney Orchard Ice Arena. "I knew I wanted to be a hockey player. That's all I've ever wanted to do."

When Bourque says he wants to be a hockey player, he means NHL star, like his Hall of Fame father, Ray. Although it's too early to say how far the younger Bourque's talents will take him, two weeks into his first NHL training camp, the 19-year-old left wing has made it clear he doesn't want to leave.

"He's here with the intentions of making the hockey team," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said.

Whether he's digging the puck out of the corner, fearlessly throwing a body check, or stick-handling around an opposing defenseman, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Bourque is a small player who plays with a big chip on his shoulder.

His veteran teammates like that attitude.

"That's a good thing," veteran defenseman Jamie Heward said. "It's a big man's game, but yet smaller guys seem to find a way to get the job done. His offensive ability is really good. Just being able to come and be that impressive right off the bat is a good sign for this organization. He's going to be a top-notch player.

"For just coming up to an NHL situation, he's been pretty impressive. His poise and how confident he is in his ability to play at this level is special. He doesn't let being smaller than some other guys affect him. And that's a good sign."

Bourque probably won't start the season in Washington, but that doesn't mean he won't spend time here given the team's rebuilding plans. If he plays well for the Hershey (Pa.) Bears, the Capitals' American Hockey league affiliate, he could be one of the first players recalled in case of an injury or demotion.

"I don't want to go to Hershey," Bourque said. "I'm having a lot of fun here. I'm just trying to get noticed by playing hard. Hopefully that will catch their eye and show them that this is where I want to be."

"I don't think we're going to be as bad as people think we're going to be. We've got some real good young talent, and if we click together, we'll have a solid team."

Bourque made his professional debut last spring with the AHL's Portland (Maine) Pirates, less than a month after leaving Boston University. In that game, he scored the winning goal in overtime.

In his first NHL game, he recorded an assist in the Capitals' 3-2 preseason overtime loss in Buffalo on Saturday. Although Bourque went pointless in Wednesday's preseason game against the Sabres, he was one of the team's best offensive players and looked at home playing the point on the power play.

But the Capitals still lost. And that didn't sit well with Bourque.

"I don't like losing," Bourque said. "Being a competitive player, it's not a good feeling. I was trying to do everything I could do, get a big hit or make a good play and get something going. That's the style I always play."

Bourque's father, who retired in 2001 after leading the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup, attended the preseason games in which Chris played, but stayed out of the spotlight.

The younger Bourque hopes it will soon shine on him.

"I think I'm ready," he added. "I hope they think so. I'm just going to keep working hard and see where that takes me."

At 5 feet 7, 170 pounds, 19-year-old Chris Bourque -- son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque -- is making a big impression on the Capitals so far this preseason.