As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. Yesterday, #1 Ryan Callahan bested #8 Ruslan Fedotenko. Today the second round continues with #4 Carl Hagelin vs. #12 Chris Kreider. Kreider upset #5 Jed Ortmeyer in the previous round.
Carl Hagelin (acquired – 2007 draft, 6th round)
Carl Hagelin is the latest of late-round steals by the Rangers. Drafted prior to his freshman year at Michigan, Hagelin was a project pick. He was expected to spend four years at Michigan, and did just that. When the Rangers signed Hagelin, he became the second Wolverines captain to come to the Rangers in a five-year span (Jed Ortmeyer). Many projected he would make the big club out of camp, but Hagelin spent the first two months of the season in Connecticut before his first call up. The puck possession monster put up a line of 14-24-38 in the remaining 64 games that season, and was one of the major turning points of the season for the Rangers.
With all that speed and skill, Hagelin is a bit inconsistent. He shows flashes, but he needs to harness that on a regular basis in order to be a top-flight top-six forward. Right now he is one of the best puck possession forwards in the NHL who will contribute 15-20 goals and 40 or so points. That output puts him at the cusp of the top-six, or one of the best third liners in hockey. Throw in his superb defensive and penalty killing ability, and Hagelin’s value to this club will only go up.
Chris Kreider (acquired – 2009 draft, first round)
Kreider exploded on to the scene during the 2012 playoffs, joining the team for 18 games and scoring five goals in the process. Kreider showcased his lightning speed and great shot in the high pressure environment, helping the Rangers to get to the Conference Finals. At that point, Ranger fans were introduced to their first high profile scoring prospect since Mike York.
Kreider spent the lockout in Connecticut, where he struggled to fully adjust to the demands of the pro schedule. Kreider didn’t necessarily deserve his spot on the NHL roster when the season began, and it showed as he struggled to maintain consistency. When he was demoted mid-season, it seemed everything began to click and he played much better. His improved play earned him another call up for the playoffs, and while he didn’t score at the pace he did in 2012, he showed more confidence and poise with the puck.
With Kreider, it is all about potential. We’ve seen what he is capable of, and it’s a matter of putting it all together on a consistent basis. A new coach, one that is less aggressive, may help Kreider develop, but that’s something we won’t know until the season starts.
So who do you think is the better Ranger, Hagelin or Kreider? Vote thumbs up for the higher seed (Hagelin), or thumbs down for the lower seed (Kreider). Voting ends at midnight tonight.