The ballad of Chris Kreider has been interesting to say the least, but how bright is the Boxford, MA native's future with the New York Rangers? Although Kreider has had an up-and-down career to date, he is finally starting to show that he can be an effective NHL scorer.
The 6'3" forward was given a fresh start under Alain Vigneault, and while he was originally sent down to the minors, it is evident that the team's top prospect is finally playing with confidence.
In the video below, Kreider completely imposes his will on the opponent and remains aggressive until the puck is in the back of the net.
Kreider's size, speed and hockey acumen have never been questioned, but many have wondered if the 22-year-old would be able to produce consistently.
In the video above, Kreider continues to dominate, and it was encouraging to see him string a pair of strong performances together in back-to-back games. This is important because confidence is key for Kreider to be successful.
Chris was pretty uptight in the preseason, understandably. He wanted to make the team more than anybody.
I worked out with him pretty much all of August in Connecticut, and that’s all he talked about and thought about. I haven’t seen too many guys work that hard to get himself ready. He might have pressed a little bit.
He really wants it. Sometimes that can get in your way, can get your head in the way and things don’t look as smooth out there as maybe they should.
Under former head coach John Tortorella, Kreider was often benched for making mistakes, but Vigneault has taken a gentler approach.
Although Kreider's line was benched briefly against the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-1 win on Saturday night, the Rangers' bench boss acknowledged the strides Kreider and company have made in an interview with the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard:
Their first three shifts were totally in our end. I must have sat that line out eight or nine minutes in the first period. I liked the way they responded. I challenged them, and they responded the right way on the ice. They had some real solid puck possession shifts and that line ended up being real good for us at the end of the night after having a so-so start.
During Saturday's win, Kreider notched assists on each of Derek Stepan's goals, improving his stat line to two goals and four assists for six points in six games. Saturday's win was the third straight game in which Kreider recorded at least a point, which shows that he is starting to find his groove.
Kreider has the potential to play a big role for the Rangers going forward because elite winger Rick Nash remains sidelined with a concussion.
The Blueshirts have been scoring more goals of late and it is promising to see the team find ways to win with key players like Nash and Ryan Callahan out of the lineup.
The Rangers selected Kreider 19th overall in 2009 for a reason, and he is finally starting to pull his weight. Going forward, he has the ability to be a catalyst for the Blueshirts and could be a contender for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.
If Kreider produces consistently, the Blueshirts could be a force once they have a healthy roster. For now, fans and critics should be content with what Kreider has done so far in 2013-14.
He still has a lot to do to cement his status as a top player, but he has come a long way from last season.