Jason DeCrow/Associated Press
Chris Kreider had been considered a top prospect for the New York Rangers since he was drafted 19th overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Drafted out of high school, Kreider eventually chose Boston College after graduation, and the decision proved to be wildly successful.
Kreider helped lead BC to two national championships during his three-year stint with the Eagles, and in his final season, the winger tallied 45 points in 44 games. Shortly after claiming the national title with his Boston College teammates in 2012, Kreider signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Rangers ahead of their exciting 2011-12 playoff run.
The then-21-year-old jumped right in and scored five goals in 18 games—a couple of which were vital to the Rangers’ overall success in the tournament.
2012-13 proved a disaster for Kreider, though, as he struggled to find his way in John Tortorella’s system. He spent most of the season with Hartford of the AHL and appeared to be a shell of the player he was the spring before.
When the Rangers introduced Alain Vigneault as the new boss in June, it was expected that Kreider would be a prime candidate to shine under the new, more offensive coach. Interestingly enough, Kreider didn’t make the Rangers out of camp, despite being handed every opportunity to do so.
It took only six games of AHL action for Vigneault and the Rangers to recall Kreider, and he’s been with the big club ever since.
Since the recall, Kreider has been a completely different player. He’s no longer timid and isn’t afraid to use his size to get to the net. He’s also used his speed to evade defenders in the neutral zone and win battles on the boards.
As a result, Kreider has scored 30 points in 52 games and has been a mainstay on the Rangers’ first line alongside Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. His point total is currently sixth best among rookies.
What’s most impressive about Kreider so far this season has been his ability to turn his game around. Under Tortorella, Kreider was clearly nervous and afraid to make mistakes on the ice, and as a result, he never played his game which is that of a speedy, gritty power forward.
AV has allowed him to fill that role, and it’s paid dividends, as the Rangers have been lacking such a player for seasons now.