Before the 2016-17 season began, Chris Kreider avoided arbitration by signing a four year, $4.625 million extension with the New York Rangers. He ended up putting together a solid campaign on Broadway, making good on general manager Jeff Gorton’s faith in the talented winger. He put together a banner season for himself, and is primed to be one of the best and most important members of the retooled Rangers.
Kreider’s Career Year
The talent has always been apparent for Kreider, but he sometimes struggled to put it together — though last year was different. He set a career-high with 53 points, well above his previous career high of 46 in the 2014-2015 season. He set a career-high in goals with 28, and tied his career-high in assists with 25. He did it in only 75 games as well, giving him a solid .707 points per game.
His point total placed him fourth on the Rangers — one of four Blueshirts to top the 50 point plateau. He was also effective on the power play, with 13 points coming on the man advantage, which was also good for fourth on the team.
He led all Rangers skaters (with at least 500 minutes of ice-time) in Corsi For, coming in at a solid 53.75%. On a team that was regularly out-shot — only four skaters with 500 minutes of ice-time or more had a Corsi For over 50 percent — being able to produce an above-50 percent Corsi For percentage is impressive.
He was also a part of two of the best line combinations the Rangers trotted out. The combination of Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello was paired together a whopping 535 minutes, and was impressive while doing it. They had the second highest score-adjusted Corsi For percentage of any line combination with more than 100 minutes played together, coming in at 53.7%.
He and Zuccarello were often paired with Mika Zibanejad, with the trio playing 279 minutes together. They were incredibly impressive together, notching a team-high 54.3% score-adjusted Corsi For percentage. He was invaluable for the Rangers last season.
A Strong Two-Way Game
The Corsi numbers, both score-adjusted and non-score-adjusted, show that Kreider drove possession at a top level with the Rangers. He played an excellent two-way game last year, which allowed him to do this. One look at his heat maps show his strong play on both ends of the ice:
As you can see, offense flows with Kreider on the ice. There are plenty of shots taken on his side of the ice, as well as in front of the net. With him, the Rangers have a consistent and dangerous offensive presence.
His defensive heat map is rather impressive. He does a good job of keeping the puck out of danger areas and suppressing shots as a whole. Kreider often gets credit for his offensive play, and it is well deserved, but defensively he is no slouch, and he often plays against the top two lines of the opposing team.
He also does an excellent job of making his teammates better, as his WOWY (with or without you) chart exemplifies:
The black boxes in the chart above show the player with Kreider, and the red boxes are the players without him. Kreider made his teammates better across the board — there is not one instance of a player improving without him. This is, arguably, the most impressive chart when reviewing Kreider’s 2016-17 campaign, and is a very encouraging sign for the Rangers.
Kreider is going to have a lot of responsibility going forward. With a 50 point lock in Derek Stepan now a member of the Coyotes, there is a big hole in the forward group — while Kreider is not a center, he certainly now has more offensive pressure on him in general. Stepan was his most frequent center this year, which will certainly be tough on Kreider — though Zibanejad was more than fine filling in between Kreider and Zuccarello. That line is going to need to repeat its performance from last season.
On top of that, winger Rick Nash is 33-years old, and has played only 60 and 67 games the past two seasons, respectively.
Not only will he be key on the ice, he will be key off of it. He is one of the longest tenured Rangers now, with Stepan being traded and Dan Girardi being bought out. While guys like newly signed Kevin Shattenkirk will likely provide a positive off-ice contribution, a long-tenured Ranger like Kreider can step up into a leadership role now.
Kreider has always had the talent, just one look at the (first) goal below highlights what kind of special player he can be:
This year, however, saw him put it together and have a career-year. It showed that Kreider can be a first line winger in this league, and is a bargain at less than five million per year.