Breaking Down Chris Kreider's 2014 Calder Trophy Chances

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IDecember 1, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06:  Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on November 6, 2013 in New York City. The New York Rangers won 5-1. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
Scott Levy/Getty Images

Chris Kreider is an interesting winger that has gone from zero to hero, back to zero and back to hero in record time.

Many fans and pundits were down on Kreider last season after he failed to replicate the success he showed during the 2012-13 playoffs, but a strong 2013-14 campaign to date has vaulted Kreider back into the good graces of the Rangers and into the middle of the Calder Trophy race.

Off the heels off a hat trick against his former bench boss John Tortorella, a lot was made about Kreider finally showing what he could do in a non-restrictive system. It was assumed that Kreider did not mesh well with Torts, but the rookie wunderkind dispelled that notion.

Via Katie Strang of ESPN NY, Kreider described his relationship with Torts as "a pretty positive one,” Kreider said. “He communicated what he expected from me, worked closely with me to help me get better as a player.”  That much is clear this year, as Kreider is a leading candidate to win the Calder Trophy in 2013-14.

This year, there are a number of top rookies such as Seth Jones, Tomas Hertl, Torey Krug and Nathan MacKinnon, but what makes Kreider worthy of receiving the honor over these esteemed candidates?

According to the NHL's website,

The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association at the end of the regular season and each individual voter ranks their top five candidates on a 10 -7-5-3-1 points system. 

Although Kreider was in the NHL last season, he didn't register the amount of games necessary to shed rookie status. Therefore, he is eligible to be named rookie of the year, and there are a number of reasons why he has a great chance of capturing the Calder Trophy.

First and foremost, Kreider is a very gifted offensive player, and that certainly helps his chances considering that the league's top scoring rookie usually wins the Calder Trophy. There are exceptions to this rule, but more often than not, the top scorer wins the title.

With that in mind, here is a current look at the top rookie scorers.

NHL Rookie Scoring Leaders
PlayerGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPoints Per Game
Tomas Hertl26138210.81
Chris Kreider20610160.80
Nathan MacKinnon25511160.64
Torey Krug2779160.59

As you can see, Kreider is tied for second in the league in scoring, and he is second by himself in points per game. Hertl, the league's top rookie scorer, has played six more games than Kreider, and he has been on the roster all season long.

That gives him an advantage over Kreider when it comes to winning the scoring race, but things are closer than they appear. To help level the playing field, here is how both top rookies have produced since October 20, the date of Kreider's recall.

Head to Head: Tomas Hertl vs. Chris Kreider
PlayerGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsPoints Per Game
Tomas Hertl1865110.61
Chris Kreider20610160.80

As you see, the race is very close, and Kreider is on par with the league's best scoring rookie. He also has been producing against top defense pairings, and his 16:53 of ice time per game is third best amongst league rookies.

Although his scoring prowess is great, there is more than just scoring when it comes to being a top player, and Kreider has shown that he is more than an offensive juggernaut. 

Thus far in 2013-14, Kreider has made a name for himself as a physical defensive player that uses his frame to his advantage. The Boxford, Mass. native is 6'3" and weighs 226 pounds. In this clip, he completely wrecks Alexei Emelin, a 6'2" and 219-pound defender for the Montreal Canadiens.

This hit is just one example of Kreider throwing his weight around against a player of considerable size, as the Rangers rookie is fifth amongst rookies with 43 hits. Kreider also is a Rangers best plus-eight rating, and that number is good enough for second overall in the NHL among rookies.

No matter how you slice it, Kreider is having a hell of a season to date. He is playing with confidence, he is using his speed and size to his advantage and he is getting results. The Rangers are starting to look like a hockey team that could go places, and Kreider is finding his grove.

If Kreider keeps pace, he should finish the year with around 25 goals and 40 assists, and that should be more than enough to help him solidify his candidacy for the Calder Trophy.