Chris Kreider is one of the best storylines to emerge this 2021-22 season for the New York Rangers, which speaks volumes given the team is performing well better than expected. New head coach Gerard Gallant panned out to be an excellent match for the team, netminder Igor Shesterkin is playing stunning hockey, and defender Adam Fox is playing up to his Norris Trophy-caliber again.
With only half of the season completed, Kreider has shattered several personal records at an incredible pace. With this, he also steps into franchise-record territory. His 30 goals in 43 games played leads the whole league, and he also leads the league in power-play scoring with 15 goals.
Kreider’s role as the net-front presence is a job he clearly revels in. At age 30, he’s enjoying a career season while being a prominent example for his younger teammates. In seemingly the span of one offseason, he’s transformed from one of the most unpredictable producers to the forefront of the Rangers’ special teams, and the most consistent one at that, too. At this rate, a goal from him on the power play is pretty much kismet.
This season, the power play has been wildly crucial for the Rangers and remains to be powerful enough to change the course of the game for them. The team leans heavily on Kreider’s role, and he has well-exceeded the expectations placed on his shoulders. Production on the power play must remain a constant, as the Blueshirts are struggling with even-strength scoring.
Kreider’s Journey With the Rangers
The Blueshirts selected the American-born forward in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The organization used their 19th overall pick for Kreider, a New Englander from out of Boston College.
Kreider finally made his regular-season NHL debut after a few seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) on Jan. 19, 2013, against the Boston Bruins. Yet, the winger’s career did not take off immediately. Up until his contract extension in 2020, and even after, he was perennially criticized as one of the most inconsistent producers.
But the front office saw more to the story besides the numbers. Kreider’s work ethic, leadership, experience, speed and strength sealed the argument that earned him a seven-year contract. With his 30 goals on the season, he broke his own personal best for goals and in record time.
A Closer Look at Kreider’s Numbers
Kreider had a career-high 28-goal season twice in 2016-17 and 2018-19. His career-high for points was the same in the 2016-17 campaign that ended with 53 points in 75 games. Of his 10 seasons in the NHL, he’s reached or surpassed the 20-goal mark seven times. Two of the three seasons he did not reach that mark were his rookie and sophomore seasons, in which he only played 89 games total.
But after that third season, he consecutively got to 20 goals from then forward. Kreider has a career of 207 goals and 182 assists for a total of 389 points in 616 games played. With 13 assists and a total of 43 points this season, Kreider is well on pace for 57 goals, according to Elite Prospects. Not only is he leading with even-strength and power-play scoring, but he’s incredibly efficient with deflection scoring.
We can illustrate Kreider’s unique skillset by breaking down how he scores. Thirteen of Kreider’s 30 are credited as deflection goals, which leads the league this season. It is a pretty unique statistic but highlights Kreider’s strength and effectiveness in front of the net. The next best is Dallas Stars’ Joe Pavelski, with four deflection goals on the season.
Not only is Kreider leading in this category season, but he leads the league overall in deflection goals since they started tracking scoring. The NHL began tracking types of scoring in the 2009-10 season and made it accessible via the internet — he currently has 61 tip-in career goals.
The 50-Goal Club Franchise Leaders
There are only three Rangers to enter the 50-goal-season club, and at this rate, Kreider could very well join them. Jaromír Jágr, Adam Graves, and Vic Hadfield all cracked the 50 goal mark on Broadway. Jágr, the last to join during the 2005-06 season, racked up 54 goals that season.
Graves collected 52 in his 1993-94 season along with a Stanley Cup. A franchise legend, he sealed off that illustrious season with 79 points and some new hardware. He was also awarded the King Clancy Trophy that season. At age 25, he is the youngest of the trio to hit that milestone.
Hadfield recorded his 50 in his 1971-72 campaign and finished that season with 106 points in total. He never surpassed the 30-goal mark with the Rangers again, but he did twice after he was moved to the Pittsburgh Penguins later on in his career. Hadfield did not receive an award that season, but he finished fifth in Hart Trophy votes.
Ironically enough, Hadfield recorded his only 50-goal season around the same age as Kreider. Kreider will turn 31 in April, and Hadfield was 31 when he reached the milestone. Also like Kreider, his previous seasons ended around the mid-to-high 20-goal mark, but for the large majority, he collected vastly more assists.
Frankly, the fact Kreider could reach Jágr numbers is pretty bewildering. Jágr had a short stint in the Big Apple, but that did not reroute him from the 50-goal checkpoint at age 33, but then again, it is still Jágr. That season, he concluded with 123 points and secured a Ted Lindsay award.
If Kreider joins the 50-goal club, he will also be the first American-born Ranger to do so. With 39 games to go, the possibilities for him are endless, especially with the effort his teammates put into getting him the puck.