The hype machine started at the beginning of last season and, ahead of the upcoming campaign, was cranked up even further with the immediate impact Chris Kreider made as an untested rookie in the NHL playoffs last spring. Then came the lockout.
With the AHL season set to commence on October 12th, and with the Connecticut Whale training camp roster announced, Chris Kreider’s presence down on the farm will be one of the major talking points among Rangers fans and hockey media whose attention will focus on the AHL during the NHL lockout.
There will be a danger of expecting too much from Kreider. Kreider has star potential at the NHL level and with a host of young talent pencilled in for the Whale roster Kreider will be one of those expected to lead the club offensively, despite a relatively modest level of experience. If Kreider can make an immediate transition and gel with his teammates then there is the potential of a 30 or even 40 goal season for the Whale but it should be of little concern if he begins the year slowly.
The priority for Kreider still needs to be getting additional exposure to and experience at the professional level. Getting more games under his belt, playing with and against men (not boys) as well as playing in a more physically demanding league (as opposed to college hockey) are all aspects that Kreider needs to deal with over a longer period. Fans shouldn’t forget that while Kreider’s initial impact was impressive he still ‘only’ has 18 pro games (all in the playoffs) under his belt.
If the lockout drags on Kreider will likely play big minutes for the Whale and hopefully help them to a successful season on the ice. With players such as Ottawa’s Jason Spezza there are current examples of players that made a significant impact during an NHL lockout in the AHL before going on to establishing themselves in the NHL. Hopefully Kreider will follow in those footsteps but lets not panic if he doesn’t set the world alight immediately.