Yesterday the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens preformed a prospects swap that saw that saw the Rangers exchange Christian Thomas for Danny Kristo. This move has shades of when the Rangers traded Ethan Werek to the Phoenix Coyotes for Oscar Lindberg back in 2011. The Rangers are hoping to see a similar result this time.
So who is Kristo? I reached out to Andrew Berkshire, managing editor for Habs Eyes On The Prize to help us out. From Andrew:
Danny Kristo is an intriguing prospect with a healthy dose of risk involved. After being taken in the second round way back in 2008, Kristo played a year in the USHL for the Omaha Lancers where he was their top offensive threat alongside fellow Habs prospect Louis Leblanc, before going to the University of North Dakota.
Kristo burst onto the scene in his first NCAA season, finishing third on his team in scoring with 36 points in 41 games, but suffered a setback in his sophomore year, with a long slump to begin the year and a hushed up incident where he suffered extreme frostbite to one foot that caused him to miss a significant portion of the season.
The following two seasons though, Kristo was one of the best players in the NCAA. Even those seasons though, were mired in a bit of controversy. Kristo was suspended multiple times by both the team and the university for violating team rules, and for supplying alcohol to underage teammates, enough that several of them got seriously sick.
There are are some concerns that playing four years in the NCAA has stalled Kristo's development significantly, but I don't think it's as big of a deal as some others do. What you'll see with Kristo is a very similar player to Chris Kreider, a brilliant skater with good hands. Although he's much smaller than Kreider, he plays a grittier game and has worked very hard to develop a good compete level defensively and along the board.
Kristo's wrist shot is also very dangerous, and even more so since he can get it off at top speed. Even with all the controversies he managed to get himself into, Kristo consistently ranked in the Canadiens' top 25 prospects under 25 years of age, though he has fallen from 6th, to 7th, to 9th over the previous three years.
Here are some links you may find useful for evaluating Kristo:
com/habs-prospects/2013/3/1/ 4044170/danny-kristo-talks- about-his-experience-at-the- university-of-north
com/2013/4/19/4243556/ exclusive-interview-with- danny-kristo-of-the-hamilton- bulldogs
The Rangers, if you haven't noticed, have made something of an organizational decision to start making moves for advanced skaters. From guys like Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin and John Moore already on the team to guys like Brady Skjei and Anthony Duclair in the minors, the Rangers have made it a point to start targeting players with elite skating ability. Kristo fits this mold perfectly.
Some people have been a little turned off by the fact that Kristo spent all four years at North Dakota, but he absolutely dominated in his senior year -- scoring 26 goals and adding 26 assists for 52 points in 40 NCAA games. Those are pretty shiny numbers from a guy who also had five goals and three assists for eight points in seven World Junior games in 2009-2010.
Kristo is known for his elite skating, an NHL-ready shot and fantastic offensive instincts. He had a bit of a slow AHL start (he played in nine games last year after graduating with the Bulldogs where he recorded three assists in nine games) but since it was his first taste of professional action I'm not worried at all.
And while Thomas was a down-home favorite, and his OHL goals impressed, Kristo (by all accounts) is the better prospect with more offensive upside. He's 23, which puts him on the older side when it comes to prospects, but he just graduated from the NCAA last year and is ready to jump into the Rangers professional ranks fresh.
Oh, he also has a ton of chemistry with Kreider and Derek Stepan from his international play. That's never a bad thing.
I think Thomas is a good prospect, and I do think he'll make the NHL, but it's clear the Rangers aren't thrilled with his development and saw a chance to upgrade him with Kristo.
I'll leave you all with this video highlight package to give you a sense of the type of player the Rangers just got.
At first blush, I think the Rangers did a great job here, especially after you see what some of the prospect experts on Twitter think about the move. We'll find out soon enough.