Rangers Recall Chris Kreider from AHL, Should Keep Him in NHL for Rest of Season
The New York Rangers added Chris Kreider to their roster from the AHL on Wednesday (via Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News), and even if his struggles offensively continue, the team should keep him at the NHL level for the remainder of the season.
Kreider was sent down to the Connecticut Whale for the second time this season on February 28, and he made the most of his recent stay in the AHL with six goals in his last eight games.
The rookie forward came into the 2013 season facing high expectations after he played well during the Rangers' playoff run last year without any regular season NHL experience.
Kreider has managed just one goal and one assist in 11 NHL games this season, but he's only averaged 10:22 of ice time per game.
When a young player makes mistakes, his confidence is not going to be high, and it doesn't help when the team and the coach doesn't show much faith in him by reducing his ice time and demoting him to the minors.
How is he supposed to correct his mistakes and develop his incredible offensive skills if he's playing less than 10 minutes per game? Rangers head coach John Tortorella needs to trust Kreider and let him play through his mistakes because as a rookie NHLer, he's going to have good and bad games.
The Blueshirts are a veteran team with several quality leaders, so he should have plenty of support in the locker room and people to talk to if he needs advice.
Since the Rangers need some scoring depth for the final stages of the playoff race, having Kreider in the lineup will give Tortorella another versatile forward capable of playing alongside many different players and making a contribution on the power play.
After watching the Rangers' bottom-six forwards struggle to produce offensively on a consistent basis this season, it's hard to imagine Kreider playing any worse than the third and fourth line forwards that Tortorella has used over the last couple weeks.
The Rangers need more speed and offensive skill in their bottom-six, and if general manager Glen Sather is unable to make a move for a veteran forward before the April 3 trade deadline, then he will have to rely on the players he has at the NHL and AHL levels.
In addition to his bottom-six forwards not living up to expectations, many of his star players have also been inconsistent this season. Marian Gaborik has scored just one goal since Valentine's day (16 games) and is currently on a seven-game goalless drought.
With that said, giving Kreider an opportunity to play in the top-six with a playmaker like Brad Richards or Derek Stepan would be a good idea. Kreider's goal against the New Jersey Devils in early February was an example of how effective he can be with a talented center on his line.
Aside from his offensive production, Kreider is going to have to give a strong effort defensively and consistently back check if he wants to earn a lot of ice time. Tortorella demands a good two-way effort from all of his forwards, and if he's not afraid to bench a veteran first-line player like Richards, then he will not hesitate to take away ice time from Kreider.
Should Kreider remain with the Rangers for the rest of the season?
If Kreider is responsible defensively and uses his speed and skill to create scoring chances he will make an important contribution to the Rangers' lineup for the rest of the season.
Having him play 15 minutes each night against NHL competition is the only way he will develop his skills and reach his full potential. Tearing it up in the AHL is not going to make him a more confident NHL player.
Young players are often afraid that if they make too many mistakes, they will get demoted to the minors, and this prevents them from playing well consistently, and it's hard for players to be comfortable when they are in this type of situation.
If Tortorella and the Rangers keep Kreider in the NHL for the remainder of the season, he won't have to worry about playing perfect hockey and will just focus on improving each game.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
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