NEWARK, NJ - MAY 19: Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates his third period goal in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final against the New Jersey Devils during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center on May 19, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Hey guys, one of the features we will be running over the course of this 2012 offseason is grading the New York Rangers individual players on their play this past season. Most grades will look at the respective player's regular season and playoff performances, potentially giving a different grade for each part of the season. Either way, each player's game will be analyzed and graded over the next few weeks. As always, these grades are an open debate for all of you, so make sure to remember that everyone will have a different opinion. My strategy for these grades -- and it might deviate as different writers give you all of these -- is that a B- grade would be a "middle of the course" result. Anything above that means the player exceeded expectations, anything below means he fell below expectations with the degree depending on the grade. Anyway, enough of me ranting. Onto the grade.
The New York Rangers had high hopes for Chris Kreider's development this season, as he spent his third season with Boston College. In the end, the Rangers got what they wanted and more out of his season in Boston. Kreider lead the team with 45 points in 44 games (23 goals and 22 assists) and won an NCAA National Championship to boot. After signing with the Rangers, Kreider spent some time watching and learning before being thrusted into the spotlight after Carl Hagelin was suspended for three games after a high hit to Daniel Alfredsson.
Kreider was a mainstay from that point forward.
Join me after the jump for more.
Kreider wouldn't play a major role until Game 6 of the series with the Ottawa Senators, where he scored the first goal of his young career -- a goal which happened to be the game-winning goal of the Rangers first elimination game of the playoffs. Kreider's play only went up from there, continuing to be a force for the Rangers as he got more comfortable with the system.
John Tortorella said him and the coaching staff made a point of not trying to tweak Kreider's game too much, and letting him use his instincts to give him some success. He did just that, scoring five goals, adding two assists and creating countless scoring chances in 18 playoff games.
The offense and the type of play Kreider gave the Rangers was completely unexpected. And since two of his five goals were game-winning tallies, it shows that he wasn't just mopping up dead minutes and putting useless goals into the back of the net.
Kreider saw first-line minutes with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, second line minutes with Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan and also saw some third and fourth line minutes -- especially after a poor clearing attempt lead to an Alex Ovechkin goal. There were obvious rough spots for the young sniper, but in the end, there was far more good than bad.
I said it during the playoffs and I'll say it again here. When Kreider was on the ice good things happened. That's a big compliment for a kid just a few weeks removed from his 21st birthday. There were games where Kreider was the Rangers' best player, by a mile. There were times when Kreider showed his speed (almost every game) and size (especially in Game 6 against the Devils where he lit up a few players).
Final Grade: A+
Reasoning: I think you're going to be hard-pressed to find a player who was thrown into such a high-pressure environment and flourished the way he did. If you take the expectations people had for him pre-playoffs (incredibly low) and look at what he did, he simply blew the doors off of them. Kreider was remarkable all playoffs, and is truly showing that he's a special player and that the Rangers' brass was right to be patient with him. For what he was expected to do, there was literally nothing else he could have done for the Rangers. He's a hell of a player.