Rangers Forward Chris Kreider Needs To Elevate His Game To The Next Level

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Chris Kreider has all the tools to be a huge threat in the NHL. His combination of size and unbelievable speed can put defenders on their heels and push goalies into the back of their nets.

While either flashing his quick shot or deflecting shots while being a nuisance for opposing goaltenders, Kreider has shown that he can score when needed. The opposing crease has been his office and he always puts himself in a position to score. But now, at the ripe age of 27, Kreider hasn’t gotten over the 60-point and 30-goal hump.  With an initial look at past seasons – 2016-17 being his best with 53 points – the Rangers as a collective don’t rely on just one player to push them over the top. The most points the Rangers have had in recent seasons have been at the hands of Rick Nash in the 2014-15 season with 69 points. Apart from this year, where a blood clot sidelined him for a significant portion of the season, Kreider has been on pace to outscore himself almost every year. Unfortunately, Kreider hasn’t elevated his game in the way most of us have expected he would. We all hear “the potential is there” and “this next season he’ll be a monster” but we haven’t seen it from him. What he should do to become that bonafide star is to focus on what he’s good at and maybe have a few linemates that can keep up with him.

Kreider has no speed limit

A big part of Chris Kreider’s game is his ability to break out with his speed and leave defenders in his dust. If Kreider truly wants to take a step to the next level as an NHL power-forward, he needs to utilize his speed. Getting those gritty goals deep in the crease helps establish your presence, but speed is a huge factor when it comes to Kreider’s game. Sometimes we forget how fast he really is when he’s busy crowding the front of the net trying to get that lucky bounce or redirection.

Catching sleeping defensemen or beating someone to the puck can easily put a goal in the net if you have the hands to back that up, and Kreider does. The video show Kreider pushing past defensemen with ease. Combine that speed with his size and he’ll be steamrolling everyone. The problem becomes trying to do too much and trying to be too fancy; if he simplifies his game he will be one of the biggest scoring threats in the league.

Using physicality, the right way

As I’m looking for examples of Chris Kreider’s physicality I am seeing a lot of big hits against him. Some of the hits I do see from him is either dirty or not at full force.

One of the problems when Kreider first came to the league was trying to stay out of the box, which in turn most likely diminished his playing time. Last year, we saw a rise in his average time on ice and coincidentally a rise in his points. Kreider has become a smarter player; and though he doesn’t dish out many hits when he’s scoring at a higher rate, he still uses the body to properly forecheck and create chances.

To elevate his game, he needs to keep his physical side in tact by crashing the net, crowding the crease and protecting the puck. We’ve seen this from Kreider while talking about his speed, he tries to do too much. Simplicity will elevate his game to the next level. Jeff Gorton said that the team lacks grit and physicality, but that isn’t an open invitation for Kreider to start knocking heads. If he focuses on using his size for offense and not as a fourth-line goon, he can flourish as a goal scorer.

Getting the band back together  

I found a post from right before the 2016 season where Larry Brooks states that the best line the Rangers had in training camp was Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. This article still applied to this past season through the Rangers hot streak, when Alain Vigneault’s best line was the KZB line. The chemistry between teammates is a huge factor to a player’s success and overall team success. Breaking up a line that is consistently scoring can be the grounds to a firing…or at least it should be. The KZB trio clicks so well that it’s starting to become more of a given than an assumption for this Rangers team, and most likely will be the top line going into this next season. Though both Mika and Chris missed some time this season, they still produced when together along with Pavel.

Though this video has David Desharnais in for Zibanejad, it still shows the type of play that can be accomplished with a line that clicks. While this is the case for all players within all sports, chemistry enhances your game and makes everyone around you better. Kreider would be better off

Captain Kreider

One of the looming questions since the Rangers traded their captain to the Tampa Bay Lightning, again, is who will assume the role next season. Well, one of the candidates is Chris Kreider. Ever since he started his tour with the Rangers after winning the NCAA Frozen Four Championship for the Boston College Eagles in 2012, he’s been a fan favorite.

In the video above, Kreider flashes the speed to score on a perfectly placed slap shot past Braden Holtby. Since then, he has shown that the Rangers can trust him in high pressure situations in both the regular season and playoffs. Younger players look to him, and Kreider leads by example as he balances scoring, physicality and even the occasional fight or two.

Chris Kreider shows that he can be a solid captain for the New York Rangers. Being the captain can push Kreider to the point where he’ll need to come in clutch when it counts the most, even if he already has enough experience in that department.

Kreider has proven that he’s able to produce in big moments, so maybe the pressure of a captaincy can elevate his game even further. We don’t know who will eventually get the stitched ‘C’ on their sweater, but if it’s Kreider, it’ll be a solid choice.

Now we wait and see

Time will only tell if Chris Kreider has hit his ceiling or not, but for the sake of the Rangers and their fans, let’s hope he still has more left to show us. Kreider has speed, size, skill, leadership and isn’t afraid to get into a fight to defend himself or his teammates. He plays with heart, even if it gets him into trouble. Simplifying his game will most likely be the best course of action for him moving forward, and with the right teammates by his side, he will become one of the best weapons the Rangers forgot they had in their arsenal. But, if he doesn’t progress within the next season, then he’s got until 2021 to prove us otherwise.