For New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider, his dream has already come true this postseason.
Most young college players just hope that they will eventually sign a contract with the team that drafted them and one day play in the NHL. Kreider signed his three-year entry level contract with the New York Rangers on April 10, 2012, and not even a day later, he was practicing with the team.
Fresh off leading the Boston College Eagles to a National Championship in the Frozen Four—his second with the team—Kreider has already scored two goals for the Rangers this postseason, including the game winner in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals earlier Saturday afternoon.
Not only is Kreider producing for the Rangers, but also he is also taking advantage of all his opportunities, and he has shown that he could be a star on this New York Rangers team for years to come.
Chris Kreider is fresh off winning a second NCAA National Championship in three seasons with the Boston College Eagles. He knows how to play at a high level with all the pressure in the world on his shoulders.
In fact, playing at Boston College may be like playing for the New York Rangers of Division 1 hockey, and he has shown that he can handle the pressures and expectations of nothing short of victory.
The Boston College star put up 45 points in 44 games this season, and added more points in the Eagles' run to the 2012 Championship.
For any young player, the NHL postseason is an intimidating animal, but to play one's first NHL games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, on a perennial Cup favorite, and in New York City, is a whole different animal. Chris Kreider has clearly shown he can handle the pressure, which will help him emerge as a star on Broadway for several seasons to come.
Coming from one system to another in the offseason or in training camp is one thing, but to come from a completely different ice surface, style of game and level of play into the pros is a completely different beast.
Chris Kreider has shown his ability to learn quickly and buy into New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella's system without complaint. While he was drafted for his offensive prowess, Kreider has done what the coach has asked of him and played a strong two-way game.
Not only has he bought into the mentality of sacrificing the body and blocking shots, but he has also remained defensively responsible. He sits plus-two through six playoff games so far in his young career.
He hasn't found himself in Tort's doghouse yet, and if he keeps his game at the level it is at right now, he may never find himself in arguably the worst wrath of any NHL coach around.
Chris Kreider has possibly the best opportunity a 20-year-old has had in the NHL since Tyler Seguin joined the Boston Bruins.
Kreider is playing on a line with former USA World Junior teammate Derek Stepan and Rangers Captain and leader Ryan Callahan. He couldn't ask for anything better than that, and he is taking advantage of the opportunity the Rangers have given him.
Through six games he has two goals, one assist and is a plus-two. Every chance he gets, he tries to create something positive for the Rangers and rarely slips up costing his team.
He is an incredibly bright player, and despite earning his $25,000 bonus for playing in five playoff games, he truly is playing for a spot on the roster next season. There is no doubt; he's shown he has what it takes to secure a spot on the Broadway Blues in 2012-13.
Sure, Chris Kreider earned his playoff bonus, but in reality Kreider has nothing to lose. The NHL Playoffs are all about passion for the game, hard work and grinding out victories. They call it the real season, but it is also the unpaid season in the long run. Kreider is one of the lucky few to be playing with nothing to lose.
He won a national championship and moved to the NHL just days later. Kreider is living the dream right now and having fun along the way.
With nothing to lose, Chris Kreider can play relaxed and perform at his highest ability.
If he can enter the league this way, there is no reason that for at least the next three seasons of his contract he cannot play to the same standard. So far, he is a rising star for the New York Rangers. The Rangers wouldn't want him to play any differently; he is helping the team extend their postseason run game by game in 2012.
Chris Kreider was born a winner.
These players are far and few between, and the New York Rangers have a 20-year-old on their roster who has won at every level he has played. Kreider's resume is second to none among rookies still in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and could prove to be the ultimate reason he is going to be a star player for the Rangers for years to come.
The one place he didn't technically win was at Andover-Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, where he led the team in his senior year with 56 points in 26 games played. Despite not winning in high school, Kreider entered the 2009 draft the highest ranked high school hockey player ever, and that is a victory in itself.
After graduating Andover, Kreider joined the Boston College Eagles where he won a national championship in his first year. The team was also selected to represent the USA at the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships, where he helped the Americans capture the Gold medal.
In addition to these accolades, Kreider also led the BC Eagles to another National Title prior to signing with the Rangers in 2012.
Chris Kreider is a winner. He brings victories to whatever team he represents, and that brings with it star factor. If Chris Kreider hasn't proven himself to be an emerging star yet, it won't be long until he is recognized as one for the New York Rangers.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist.
Follow John on Twitter: @JohnBainSports