Chris Kreider earned a four-year, $18.5 Million extension this offseason by becoming a mainstay in the New York Rangers top six before the age many forwards hit their prime. Kreider has been a projected breakout candidate on an annual basis but has not yet reached the 50-point mark in a single season.
He represents an enigma of sorts for the Rangers, as he is merely 25-years old, produces well enough to remain in the top six, but has been unable to take the leap forward the team would like.
The forward burst onto the NHL scene in the 2012 playoffs, immediately contributing to the Eastern Conference finalist Rangers team before playing in any regular season games. The expectations were tremendous heading into his rookie season, but inconsistent playing time and a lack of trust from John Tortorella led to three points in 23 games for the speedster. Alain Vigneault soon after came on board, and Kreider was given a real opportunity to succeed.
He received top six playing time and proved that he deserved it, scoring 37 points in 66 games and assisting the Rangers in their trip to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2014-15, Kreider scored 46 points and once again contributed heavily to a long postseason run for New York. 2015-16 represented a minor setback for Kreider, as his point total dropped when it was expected to climb, and the Rangers failed to make any noise in the playoffs.
Kreider himself commented on the season being a setback.
“I’ve looked at my last year, I’ve gone over it, and I’ve moved beyond it… But if I were going to talk about it a little bit in retrospect, I probably spread myself too thin and got away from the player I know I am.”
Still, the Rangers extended Kreider, knowing that at the age of 25 the best is likely ahead of him.
For both player and team, it is imperative that he takes the next step forward immediately. New York has placed Kreider on a line with Pavel Buchnevich, J.T. Miller, Brandon Pirri, and/or Mika Zibanejad at times this preseason, mixing players that could match his speed and help set him up in hopes of sparking his offensive abilities.
Kreider has been noticeably more eager to shoot and get in front of the net, two areas in which he has hesitated in the past. As a big-bodied, ultra-fast forward, there is no reason Kreider should not be a 50-plus point player. His lack of production has stemmed from cold streaks, likely due to his tendency to misuse his own abilities and misread plays on the ice. With a playmaker like Zibanejad or a fellow offense-first forward such as Pirri, Kreider’s confidence could certainly be aided, and his performance could improve.
For any questioning Kreider’s ability to be an impactful factor on a winning team, there is a simple rebuttal. He ranks 10th in playoff goal scoring among all forwards since 2013, as he has regularly dominated postseason action. The talent is there with his ability to simultaneously out-muscle and out-skate opposing defenses. The recipe for success is there, but the time is now to turn all of it into a productive, progressive season.