Chris Kreider’s Long Road to Breakthrough Season With Rangers

The New York Rangers have a 30-13-4 record at the All-Star break, and Chris Kreider’s strong play has been integral to the Blueshirts’ impressive record. He currently leads the NHL with 33 goals and he also has 14 assists this season.

Though Kreider has been a key contributor for the Rangers for a long time, this is certainly a breakthrough season for him. During his career, however, he has had some ups and downs and he has had to overcome a lot of challenges. Here’s a look at his journey to playing like a star for the Blueshirts this season.

Kreider’s First Few Seasons With the Rangers

The Rangers drafted Kreider 19th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. After three impressive seasons playing for Boston College, he made his debut with the Blueshirts during the playoffs in 2012. He scored his first goal in the first round against the Ottawa Senators with the Rangers facing elimination, and helped New York make a run to the Eastern Conference Final. He showed great speed and strength, finishing with five goals and two assists in 18 games.

Though Kreider had an impressive postseason in 2012, he struggled during the 2012-13 season. He played six games for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) and frequently ended up as a healthy scratch with the Rangers. However, he once again came through for the Blueshirts in the playoffs, scoring an overtime goal in Game 4 of their second-round series against the Boston Bruins.

Chris Kreider
Chris Kreider played very well in the postseason early in his career (Photo credit: Andy Martin, Jr.)

During the 2013-14 season, Kreider broke out, using his speed to get around defenders and his strength to drive to the front of the net. He had a hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks, and proved to be an effective power forward. He finished the season with 17 goals and 20 assists in 66 games but suffered a broken hand which kept him out for the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason.

Kreider provided the Rangers with a spark when he returned for their second-round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored a clutch goal and added an assist in New York’s 5-1 Game 5 victory, as the Blueshirts came back from down 3-1 in the series to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

In the Eastern Conference Final, Kreider continued his strong play with three goals and five assists, as the Rangers defeated the Canadiens in six games. One of the most memorable moments of the series came in Game 3, as Kreider scored on a deflection to tie the game with less than one minute remaining. He finished the postseason with five goals and eight assists in 15 games.

Kreider’s Progression and Health Scare

Over the next few seasons, Kreider established himself as one of the Blueshirts’ top forwards. He scored at least 20 goals in each of his next three seasons, and also finished with seven goals and two assists during the 2015 postseason. He scored the game-tying goal with time running out in Game 5 of New York’s second-round series against the Washington Capitals. He had a very strong 2016-17 regular season as well, finishing with 28 goals and 25 assists. However, he struggled in the postseason in 2017, at times looking lost, and finished with just three goals and one assist in 12 games.

Chris Kreider Rangers
Chris Kreider has had some great hot streaks but some long scoring droughts with the Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Over the course of the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 seasons, Kreider used his strength to get good positioning in front of the net. He scored a lot of goals on deflections and rebound opportunities. He also used his speed to create some breakaways but struggled to capitalize on them. Despite producing offensively, he struggled with consistency. He had some long, frustrating scoring droughts but he also had stretches when he looked unstoppable, outworking opponents and dominating in front of the net.

Related: Rangers Hoping That Kreider’s Streak Becomes Consistency

During the 2017-18 season, doctors diagnosed Kreider with a blood clot and he had rib resection surgery, missing 24 games. Despite the frightening diagnosis, he returned to the lineup that season and was consistently one of New York’s most noticeable players. He forechecked effectively, drove to the net, and made hustle plays. He finished the season with 16 goals and 21 assists in 58 games. Though the Rangers decided to rebuild and traded away many key players, they held on to Kreider.

Kreider’s Contract Extension and Breakthrough Season

Though the Rangers struggled during their rebuild, Kreider played well for the most part, but he still had some extended scoring droughts. He finished the 2018-19 season with 28 goals and 24 assists in 79 games.

During the 2019-20 season, in the final year of his contract, Kreider avoided the long slumps that had plagued him throughout his career. He consistently produced offensively, forechecked effectively, and also played well defensively. Though trade rumors surrounded him as the trade deadline approached, the Rangers signed him to a seven-year, $45.5 million contract extension during the season. Unfortunately, he broke his foot blocking a shot, but he still finished with 24 goals and 21 assists in just 63 games.

Last season, Kreider played fairly well, but he didn’t play to his full potential. He proved to be a weapon in front of the net on the power play, and he scored 11 of his 20 goals with the man advantage. Although he stepped up with key players out of the lineup, at times he struggled at even strength, and the Rangers missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.

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This season, everything has come together for Kreider, who has produced consistently and delivered for the Rangers. He leads the NHL with 17 power-play goals, and he has repeatedly scored on both deflections and rebounds. At even strength, his line with center Mika Zibanejad (and whoever Gerard Gallant has played at right wing) has been the team’s best, both offensively and defensively. They have forechecked effectively, putting pressure on opponents, while also playing responsibly defensively.

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In addition to his dominant offensive play, Kreider has excelled on the penalty kill alongside Zibanejad. He has used his long reach to deflect shots and passes, and his speed to create shorthanded opportunities. He has already scored two shorthanded goals this season.

Kreider is known for his intense offseason workouts and they have paid off for him this season. He is proving to be an important leader for this young team because of his work ethic and preparation, as well as his outstanding play.

For Kreider Moving Forward

Kreider is in the running for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, and as long as he stays healthy, he has a chance. He has been dominant in front of the net and he has had a knack for scoring goals when the Rangers needed them in close games.

More importantly, the Rangers have an opportunity to end their postseason drought, and Kreider is leading the way. The Blueshirts have relied heavily on him this season and they will need him to continue to play well after the All-Star break. He certainly has played like a superstar thus far this season, and that is a great sign for the Rangers going forward.

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