Rick Nash. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Some people didn’t want Nash at the deadline and those fans got their wish. Until he lands somewhere else however, he will be intensely linked with the Rangers and should they indeed land the uber-talented power forward he’ll be the Rangers de-facto left winger for half a decade.
Enter Chris Kreider. He may have something to say about Nash. In fact, the more big games Kreider has (like the two goal game against Air Force) the less likely it is Glen Sather revisits a possible Nash acquisition. Certainly, the buzz around Kreider in regard to his immediate NHL ability is growing by the game.
Kreider is a man-child that will physically cope with the NHL from day one. However, the Rangers opportunity to win is opening earlier than many anticipated thanks to this season and it’s a legitimate debate to ask what Kreider can bring from day one (and I don’t mean as a guest star in this season’s playoff production).
Look around at some comparables. James Van Riemsdyk and Chris Kreider are both physically similar in stature, both have been strong college performers and both have been hugely anticipated entering the pro ranks. Yet it took van Riemsdyk quite a while to adjust to being a regular contributor at the NHL level and you can argue he joined a more talented team when he joined the Flyers. You could also argue ‘JVR’ still hasn’t quite lived up to his billing consistently.
So what can be expected from Krieder next season? Does the mere presence of world class speed make the difference between his ability to thrive immediately compared to Van Riemsdyk’s entry to the NHL? Will that speed singlehandedly land him a top line assignment and render the Nash debate unnecessary?
Another comparison may be Phil Kessel (bear with me here). Kessel is another player that was strong in the college game and possessed crazy speed as he entered the NHL. Although one dimensional compared to the player Kreider projects to be, many anticipated Kessel’s speed would be the X-factor. It wasn’t and he struggled through an 11 goal, 29 point rookie season.
Kreider appears more mature at this stage of his development. He’s done things his way, at his pace and appears ready for the Rangers. He’s physically better than Kessel and faster than Van Riemsdyk. He’s played at every stage showing improvement and don’t underestimate how his senior internal experience (13 games at World Championships, five points) will help him cope with the pro ranks.
The thing that needs to be remembered however is while Kreider appears ready the Van Riemsdyk and Kessel examples prove that it may not be an overnight success for Kreider. The expectation is huge, the lust after the Cup is growing and Kreider will likely hit some speed bumps along the way.
Is Kreider ready to take over a top six spot on the Rangers? Despite many people expecting it, in all honesty it’s still far too early to tell. So don’t expect the Nash rumours to stop any time soon and let’s not scream mercy the first time Kreider has a two game scoring slump.