It’s come a year later than expected, but Chris Kreider is finally making his own way as a New York Ranger. During the Rangers recent stretch of good form, Kreider has arguably been the biggest physical force on the ice for the Rangers, using his body to great effect on countless occasions. He’s been producing offense, getting under countless opponents’ skin (hello Sidney), and generally playing the most consistent hockey he ever has done, at the pro level.
As with all projections and forecasts, when you’re barely a month into a seven month season, there is much scope for change. But there is no reason Kreider – who still qualifies as a rookie – shouldn’t be in the reckoning for the Calder trophy come the end of the season. If it’s down to opportunity and ability he’ll be in the mix.
Assuming Rick Nash returns soon – which every person associated with the Rangers hopes – Kreider will not be affected adversely as some may speculate, in fact quite the opposite. With Nash attracting the attention of most team’s best defensive lines, the theory is Kreider and his linemates will have weaker opposition to exploit. With 8 points in 10 games to date, and as one of the current focal points of the Rangers offense, Kreider has proven he can handle tough assignments so it stands to reason he should benefit from the attention Nash garners.
A mere 10 games into his own NHL season – thanks to some development time with the AHL Wolf Pack – it could be reasonably argued it’s a little early to anoint Kreider a Calder candidate, indeed he hasn’t got a full time spot on the Rangers guaranteed quite yet. However, thanks to his current pace (on course for a 60 point season) if he can maintain close to his current form/production Kreider will be in the discussion come the end of the season.
As it stands, Kreider has to contend with runaway candidate Tomas Hertl of the Sharks – who the Rangers know all too well. Mark Arcobello of the Oilers has made a surprising start to his career while Torey Krug (another nasty memory for Rangers fans) and Sean Monahan are the other outstanding rookie skaters so far. In addition, Frederik Andersen of the Ducks is the best rookie goaltender six weeks in.
With that all said, and assuming Kreider can maintain a top six position all season, he can hold his own. It stands to reason that Monahan and Arcobello should face leaner times given their positions on relatively poor teams, while Andersen could fall back to the third (!) string goalie for the Ducks when all are fit and well. Krug has had his ups and downs in recent games too, so if Kreider can catch up with Hertl opportunity knocks.
Kreider actually has room for improvement from a production point of view. His shooting percentage is below career averages (albeit he’s never faced this calibre of goaltending in his career before), while his ice time has steadily increased as his form has improved. With a Rangers powerplay that has shown steady improvement under the new coaching staff, and with Derek Stepan now up to full speed, Kreider has a great chance of a strong season.
Before the season began many were wondering what was in store for Chris Kreider and who would step up to support Rick Nash offensively. As it stands now, the return of Rick Nash to the Rangers would add elite depth and another quality finisher to go opposite Chris Kreider. Quite the development, quite the exciting future.