For some reason, the Rangers top line always seems to generate some level of debate. For some, Mika Zibanejad isn’t a top line center, and there is a decent debate about powerplay production versus even strength production. Then there’s Chris Kreider, who no matter what he does, always seems to get relegated to the third line by a vocal subset of fans. Yet Kreider’s 36 goals last year was tops on the Rangers, just 8 of them coming on the powerplay. Seems like a top line forward to me.
Kreider’s 36 goals, plus his 52 last season, puts him far and away the top goal scorer on the team the last two seasons. While half of those 52 goals in 2021-2022 were on the powerplay, that number dropped to 22% in 2022-2023. His 5v5 goals/60 was 1.14, tops on the team. His 5v5 points/60 was 1.69, 7th on the team among skaters playing a minimum of 500 minutes for the Blueshirts (via Natural Stat Trick).
Kreider is not a playmaker, so his assist numbers are rarely high, impacting his overall points/60. This again, is fine when you consider his role on the team as a net-front presence. He’s the best net-front guy in the NHL in my opinion, and there are many goals with his fingerprints on them, even if he doesn’t wind up on the score sheet. It’s hard to put a quantifiable value to what he does in front of the net.
Yet despite not being an assist guy, Kreider is one of the most consistent play drivers on the ice. He’s solid in all three zones, he plays all three strengths, and he’s very, very good at both driving offense and defense. Even better, his xGF and xGAR numbers are higher than his scoresheet production, which implies some poor on-ice luck last season. It’s implied and not a guarantee, but we could see more points from him next season, assuming the same situations provided.
At 31 years old, Kreider’s age may catch up to him at some point. It will, if anything, impact his top-end speed and acceleration first, and not his strength or net-front ability. He’s transitioned his game to use his strength and net-front ability more, instead of his speed. That type of skill set ages quite well. For now, he’s well worth his contract, and will likely continue to be worth his contract for the next few seasons.
And since the comments have been about playoffs lately, his 6-3-9 in 7 games led the Rangers. Yea, the entire team laid an egg, but Kreider did his job.