“He is just a kid.”
That is what everyone will tell you. The New York Rangers youngest star, Chris Kreider, is just a kid. Head coach, John Tortarella, said it. GM and President, Glen Sather, has said it. Even his NHL competition has said it. Yup, Kreider is just a kid. But what New York Rangers fans will tell you is that he is OUR “Kid”!! He is not to be confused with the kid from that abandoned steel town who skates around with his thorny gold and black halo. He is not the failed high draft pick who the Rangers traded for. He is not Jayson Moore, Pavel Brendl, or Tony Amonte. He is not even Alexei Kovalev. There have not been expectations this meteoric from a Ranger draft pick since perennial All-Star and fellow Boston College Eagle, Brian Leetch first laced up for the Broadway Blues in 1988. The New York Rangers used their first round pick (9th overall) in the 1986 Entry Draft to select Leetch. And they did the same thing some 23 years later when the blueshirt brass tapped Kreider as the 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft.
How important to the New York Rangers’ future is Kid Kreider? How about the fact that Sather let initial trade talks for All-Star Rick Nash go stone-cold dead when Columbus Blue Jackets GM, Scott Howson, did not come off his demands for a player whose name started with a “K” and sounded like “rider”? In fact, the New York Rangers felt that Kreider was important enough to their 2012 playoff run that they were willing to burn up a full year of his mandatory 3-year entry level contract by allowing Kreider to play just 18 playoff games. He proved his pedigree by scoring 5 goals and 7 points in games against the Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals, and New Jersey Devils using his large frame and explosive outside speed to gain positioning.
So how can so much be riding on a 21-year old kid who has only played against 3 NHL teams? For life long Ranger fans, who have seen their farm-grown talent not bloom or traded away for years, there is a pride of ownership with Kreider. They heard about his talent on draft day. They watched him excel during the World Junior Championships and finally they got to see him on full display, in color on ESPN, in April during the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four when BC defeated Ferris State for the National Championship. Many New York Rangers fans were actually hoping that Boston College would get bumped off early in the NCAA tournament so that Krieder could dress up sooner rather than later for the NHL playoffs. When Kreider’s name had been linked to the potential Rick Nash deal, it was no surprise that fans began to shutter with the nightmares of yesteryear. Seasoned fans will tell you of the days when highly touted draft picks were dealt for aging overpaid stars or stop-gap players.
The New York Rangers actually stuck to their guns by letting the February NHL trade deadline go without dealing for Nash and holding on to their coveted blue chip. This allowed them to expose Kreider to some serious world class play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that saw 2 game sevens and a bitter cross town show down with the hated Devils Sather’s intestinal fortitude was made that much sweeter when he was able to nail down a trade on Nash in July without losing any foundational pieces to a Stanley Cup Champion team.
If training opens on time this September (looming work stoppage aside), it will be a-buzz with the possibilities of what may lay in Kreider and the New York Rangers future. Expectations will be high, but high talent begets high expectations. And this kid…their kid…has a truck load of it.