We’re getting into the meat of the countdown now as we look to a player that began the decade as the future of the Rangers, grew into part of arguably the most successful core to play for the Rangers, and now stands as an elder statesman of the future.
#6 Chris Kreider
Career as a Ranger: 2012-Present
Numbers as a Blueshirt over the decade*: In 499 games: 145 goals, 151 assists for 296 points (2.21 Pts/60). 56.99 CF% (16.14 C/60), 61.18 xGF% (0.97 xG/60). 59.1 GAR, 11.2 WAR
Best season as a Ranger: 2016-17: 28 goals, 25 assists for 53 points in 75 games.
To begin the decade Chris Kreider was seen as the future of the team. The tall, strong winger from Boxford, Massachusettes was drafted 19th overall in 2009 and headed for Boston College. After three successful seasons with the Golden Eagles, Kreider made his NHL debut in the 2011 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators where he promptly scored his first career goal. While that playoff run ended at the hands of the New Jersey Devils during the Eastern Conference Finals, Kreider proved to be a bright spot during the lengthy postseason run and Kreider was set to make an impact in the NHL the following season.
Then the NHL decided to lockout it’s players a kill half a season. Kreider spent most his first full professional season playing for the Connecticut Whale (the Wolf Pack had an identity crisis, it was weird) while waiting for the NHL to figure itself out. Once the NHL got rolling, Kreider put up only 3 points in 23 NHL games played as head coach John Tortorella kept him down the lineup charts time and time again. The Ranger did make the playoffs that season, only to be bounced quickly by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, though the American winger did pick up an overtime game winner against the Bruins.
As the calendar turned to 2013 season, the Rangers had a new coach in Alain Vigneault who brought with him a new, faster mindset to Broadway and it helped Kreider flourish in New York. He played 66 games for the Rangers in the 2013-14 season, picking up 37 points and while still trying to figure out how to best utilize his rather unique combination of strength, size, and speed. Kreider also made a rather large impact on the playoffs that season as Alexei Emelin slashed Kreider on a breakaway, forcing the big forward to crash into Carey Price knocking the Montreal goalie out of the Eastern Conference Final. On the score sheet, the big winger put up 13 points in 15 postseason games as the Rangers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Following that unlikely run to the Stanley Cup, the Rangers were set for big things the following season and Kreider looked to take a step forward as he played 80 games that season while picking up his first 20 goal campaign and pushed 50 points, finishing with 46 all told. The Rangers fell just short of a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final but the Rangers had established themselves as one of the top teams in the East with Kreider a big part of their attack. The next couple of seasons saw the Vigneault-led Rangers continue to get into the playoffs but with every increasing diminished returns. All the while, the big winger continued to play at a high level but never quite hit the ceiling everyone thought he would hit when was first drafted at the beginning of the decade.
Now, Kreider is seen as a proven veteran on a Rangers team that is looking to the future. Recently, Kreider developed a strong chemistry with Swedish center Mika Zibanejad and Russian winger Pavel Buchnevich. Creating one of the better lines that the Rangers have had in quite some time. When it comes to Kreider’s future in New York, it looks rather murky as the 28 year old, soon-to-be UFA will probably be a very hot commodity as we approach the Trade Deadline.
Favorite moment as a Ranger: There were bigger moments in Kreider’s career for sure but none perhaps more enjoyable than him picking up his first career hat trick agains the Vancouver Canucks in what was John Tortorella’s return to MSG after being fired that offseason. Kreider, who had been healthy scratched for long stretches under Torts, picked up the three goals in what felt like a very definitive closing of the book on the Tortorella era of Rangers hockey.