New York Rangers: Chris Kreider Should Play with Brad Richards on Top Line

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 23: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on January 23, 2013 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Bruins 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York Rangers rookie forward Chris Kreider didn't have an ideal start to the 2013 NHL season after suffering an ankle injury and failing to impress in his first three games of the year.

He returned to the Blueshirts lineup on Tuesday night after missing five straight games, and his impressive performance was one of the few positives from the team's 3-0 loss to the rival New Jersey Devils.

The former first-round pick from Boston College scored his first career regular-season goal on a beautiful shot past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur in the third period (see video below). Rangers players scoring their first career regular-season goal on Brodeur has actually happened quite a few times recently (via MSG's Kenny Albert).

This goal was a perfect example of Kreider's ability to score from the wing with his quick release and accurate shot, even from a tight angle. He's been a goal scorer his entire life, and positions himself very well to receive passes and capitalize on rebounds where he can put the puck in the net for the Rangers.

To ensure that Kreider continues to play well and develops into the superstar he has the talent to become, Rangers head coach John Tortorella should move him to the first line alongside star forwards Brad Richards and Rick Nash.

He started Tuesday's game on the fourth line with recent AHL call-up J.T. Miller and newly-acquired veteran Darroll Powe, but Kreider has the potential to be a top-tier NHL power forward, and his size and strength fits well with two quality defensive forwards like Richards and Nash.

Having the 21-year-old play with an elite playmaker such as Richards would help him maximize his offensive production, and for Kreider to build his confidence up, he needs to be scoring goals consistently.

Pairing star winger Marian Gaborik on the second line with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan would also give the Rangers a fantastic top-six forward group, and two well-rounded lines for opposing teams to game-plan for each night.

The Rangers are 26th in goals scored, so Tortorella has nothing to lose by putting Kreider on the top line because not much else has worked this season. You can tell that Kreider is motivated and has the skills to be productive alongside the Rangers' No. 1 center.

As a young player with very little NHL experience, Kreider is going to make mistakes, but it's important that Tortorella doesn't take away his ice time if he has a few bad shifts.

Kreider hasn't played more than 10:35 in a game thus far, and should be allowed to play through his mistakes because that is the most effective way for him to learn and get better.

Very few Rangers players have lived up to expectations this season, and since Kreider is one of the team's most talented forwards and one of the few guys playing with a lot of energy, he deserves to get more ice time and to play alongside Richards and Nash on the top line.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.