Chris Kreider is one of the New York Rangers‘ most highly touted prospects. In the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs he burst onto the scene scoring five goals in 18 games. He thrilled Ranger fans with his speed, agility, and lethal wrist shot. The fans and organization thought the future had arrived. Alas, the 2013 season proved to be a reality check. Kreider was bounced back-and-forth between the Rangers and the AHL, playing only 23 games and recording three points. He fell out of favor with former head coach John Tortorella, and many began to question Kreider’s future with the Rangers. In 2013-14 he has emphatically proved those doubters wrong and proved he belongs, and this is critical for the team now and in the future.
At first it seemed as if Kreider would not get that opportunity after he had a mediocre training camp and began the season in the AHL. Rumors swirled that he may be traded for an elite scorer and that the front office and new coach Alain Vigneault were unhappy with him. When he got recalled following Ryan Callahan‘s injury it was more or less his last chance, and he has made the most of it.
Kreider has eight points in ten games, two more than he had all last season. He was the best player on the ice in several of them and has simplified his game to the point where he is playing to his strengths and not forcing everything. His speed adds a different dynamic to the Ranger offense, and he has developed great chemistry with fellow linemates Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan. In Wednesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins he demonstrated fearlessness by standing up to Sidney Crosby.
Right now, Kreider is developing into the player the Rangers hoped for after drafting him 19th overall in 2009. As a team challenged to score goals and with little salary cap maneuverability for trades, the Rangers need it. It’s easy to forget Kreider is only 22 years old, and it feels as if he has been around forever. His continued maturity is critical to the Rangers’ success now and will be even more valuable to them going forward.