Future Ranger: Danny Kristo
At the Traverse City Prospect tournament, Kristo introduced himself to Ranger’s fans for the first time. The appeal of prospect tournaments is to see what the future looks like, and right away it looked bright. Kristo’s stat line was impressive: 4 games, 2 goals, 5 assists, plus two, 2 PP assists, 1 game winner and 16 shots but still many questioned the level of play. Next was a shot to make the Rangers out of camp. Despite a decent showing, and even registering a point in a preseason game against the Devils, Kristo was sent down to start his year with the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Right away Kristo made an immediate impact and scored a goal in his first game. 15 games in to the season, Kristo was playing at a point per game level. At this point, Kristo was already playing on the first line and top power play unit, and he lead the Wolf Pack in goals assists and points. He was tied for 6th in the AHL among rookies in scoring, and ranked in the top 10 for PP goals, assists and points. It was only 15 games into the season and it seemed liked Glen Sather fleeced Montreal again.
After a fast start in Hartford, Kristo’s skills put fans and Rangers’ brass on notice and changes would put the spotlight on him. Chris Kreider and Cam Talbot were called up to the NHL full time. Jesper Fast was injured, and Oscar Lindberg was finding his game. With JT Miller being bounced up and down by the Rangers, the Hartford Wolfpack became Danny Kristo’s team.
Meanwhile, Hartford was in a major slump as a team, Kristo did everything in his power to keep the team afloat. When the team couldn’t score, Kristo was raking up points and making big plays. Whether he liked it or not, Kristo became the leader, both on and off the ice. Kristo was doing everything you wanted to see in a prospect. He was lighting the lamp, assisting on goals, producing on the PP, staying out of the penalty pox and playing tough in all areas of the ice.
Around that same time, The New York Rangers were struggling, both on the power play and in general in the offensive zone. Many fans were calling for changes, and most were calling for Kristo to be given the shot that he earned. When he wasn’t called up, all we were left with was more questions.
After the initial trade, many were confused with how and why the trade came about. We knew he lit up the scoreboards in college and international play, but we were left asking why the Habs would trade such a prolific scorer? In Hartford, we saw a player in is first full pro season leading a team in goals and points. In New York we saw a struggling team that desperately needed and offensive spark and it appeared Kristo was Broadway bound.
Unfortunately for Kristo, he came to the Rangers organization with some baggage. In college, Kristo was suspended, along with other captains for organizing an team party and serving underage teammates alcohol. Kristo himself missed game for underage drinking his freshman year. On top of that, Kristo developed a reputation as a player who would disappear during games, take shifts off and above all else, he gained a reputation as someone who was more worried about partying then playing hockey. The biggest question mark on Kristo has nothing to do with his skill or ability to play, it has to do with his maturity off the ice, and whether or not he can act as a professional away from the rink.
What to expect:
Danny Kristo is the perfect combination of size, speed and goal scoring ability that the Rangers are looking for. Looking at the system AV wants to run here in NY, Danny Kristo seems tailor made to for it. Kristo is an extremely fast skater who has a quick first step, and uses his speed and size to create space for himself and his teammates.
Kristo has also proven that he can play just as fast with the puck, and developed the skill of being able to get a hard and accurate shot off from the wing, while skating full speed. Kristo makes quick decisions, looks to shoot first and pass second. He has shown that if he sees a shot he likes he’s taking it, but doesn’t force his shots.
Another amazing think about his game is that he puck looks alive on his stick. It’s moved quickly and accurately or put on the net. These are attributes that any coaching staff is looking for both five on five and on a power play. Admittedly, like most young offensive minded players, Kristo needs to improve his defensive zone coverage. While it’s getting better, it still needs work. On the other hand, his offensive skill set is NHL ready. So what can Kirsto add to the Rangers? A proven goal scorer at every level, a player who uses his size and speed to create offense for himself and his teammates. A future sniper and a guy who can cash in on the PP.
While questions about his maturity still linger, questions about his skill and level of play have been answered thus far. With Benoit Pouliot being a UFA at the end of the season, Danny Kristo is setting himself up nicely, to compete for a spot out of camp next year. Many prospects have gone down this road, some figure it out and go on to become stars while others don’t and fade away in obscurity. We don’t know what path Kirsto will choose, and only he can decided that, but assuming he takes the right one, we will be looking at the next great Ranger.