When the New York Rangers drafted Chris Kreider in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft there was a genuine excitement because it had been a long time since the Rangers had a winger with as much talent and size as Kreider. When he made his NHL debut in the 2012 playoffs the excitement was palpable. He responded by setting the NHL record for most goals in the playoffs before playing his first regular season game with five. That caused the expectations and excitement surrounding the young forward to go through the roof.
The excitement was short-lived, however. Kreider struggled as most young players do and then-head coach John Tortarella benched Kreider often for the smallest mistakes. He spent the 2012-13 season bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL and never really was given the chance to show what he could do on a nightly basis as Tortarella buried Kreider when he chose to even play him.
The benchings and constant shuttling had to have a negative impact on Kreider. It was a complete 180 from where he was just the year before.
The 2013 season began with Kreider getting sent down to the AHL, a move that was based more on him needing to get the playing time and refine some rough edges of his game that were glaring during the preseason. However, injuries to Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan necessitated the Rangers recalling Kreider and head coach Alain Vigneault has not hesitated to play Kreider alongside Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan. In turn, Kreider is responding and has been going out on a nightly basis and playing his game, using his size and speed to create chances.
Those chances are starting to turn into scores for Kreider. He netted goals in back-to-back games against the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres and then followed that up with a three-assist game against the Carolina Hurricanes giving him two goals and four assists in six games.
These are the kinds of performances that Rangers’ fans and the coaching staff have been waiting for. The 22-year-old winger looks like he is finally starting to piece it all together and it comes at a perfect time for the Rangers as they search for answers on offense. Now, the question is, will Kreider continue to improve and play this kind of hockey or will he fall into a funk after the slightest mistake? At least he has a coach now who is willing to live with the mistakes and one that will allow him to play his game.