Chris Kreider‘s contract was of much debate heading into the 2021-2022 season. Having never hit 30 goals or 55 points, his $6.5 million contract was viewed as a potential anchor right from the start. Luckily for many, Kreider exploded this season as a leader, top goal scorer, and critical powerplay presence, on top of already being the best net front presence in the NHL. This led to Chris Kreider’s historic season, setting two Rangers records and flirting with another.
Kreider finished the season with 52 goals, tying Adam Graves for second most in a single season in Rangers history, and just the fourth Ranger to do so. He also set a Rangers record with 26 powerplay goals, topping Jaromir Jagr’s 24 from 2005-2006. He also set a Rangers record with 11 game winning goals, topping the previous record of 9, shared by six others.
But it goes beyond the offense for Kreider. Considering how awful the Rangers were in limiting chances for most of the season, to see Kreider’s defensive impacts so high shows how good he is as a two way player. He’s just a smart player. He’s in on the forecheck, goes hard on the back check, and while his defensive assignments at even strength aren’t overly difficult, he plays his role well.
Kreider is another guy that plays at all three strengths, with an extreme emphasis on his powerplay usage. He is clearly the best net front presence in the NHL, knowing how to read the the play and set up the screen in front. He took that to a whole new level this year, adding a propensity for getting himself open for high quality chances in front, which he converted. If we look at why Mika Zibanejad and Artemiy Panarin had fewer goals this year, look at Kreider’s ability to score from in front.
When the season started, the debate for captain was mostly between Kreider and Zibanejad. With the season over, many are now on the Kreider side of things, even if this isn’t a competition. The way Kreider manages the locker room, is a presence on and off the ice, and manages the media scrums is masterful. He also did a clean sweep of Rangers awards/nominations, including the Steven McDonald Award winner and King Clancy Award nominee. He’s the heart of the team, and it shows.
Kreider is most likely in line to be the captain, and his style of play combined with work ethic should slow his aging curve a bit (emphasis on *should*). While the captain thing means more to the fans than it does the players, I’d be surprised if Kreider isn’t named captain to start the 2022-2023 season. He will most likely take a step back from 52 goals, but his impacts go far beyond the goals.