Chris Kreider has two goals, both game-winners, and one assist through six playoff games. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
When Chris Kreider led Boston College to its Frozen Four victory, then signed a contract with the Rangers, then rushed to New York and got into a playoff game – all within a few days – it caught the attention of poolies everywhere.
Yours truly even took a flyer on him in the final round of the THN annual office pool draft.
But the reality is, when it comes to prospects nobody knows what you’re going to get. Even the blue-chippers are tough to predict. Some potential third-liners become 80-point players. Some potential first-liners become 35-point players. Some potential superstars become that very thing – but in the Swiss league.
The scouting report on the 21-year-old Kreider (Happy Birthday, by the way) is impressive. He boasts excellent size (6-foot-3, 231 pounds) and has great strength to go with it. He’s hard to get off the puck and when he has the puck, he knows what to do with it. He has an accurate shot he likes to use and boasts pretty good hockey sense. He’s a potential star, but the question was: would his impact be felt early?
When Carl Hagelin was suspended in the first round, Kreider got his chance – a three-game audition he passed with flying colors. Not only that, but his ice time has since increased. Hagelin returned from suspension, but then Brian Boyle sustained a concussion and Kreider’s ice time shot up from 10:46 on April 23 to 18:21 on April 26.
For those keeping score, April 26 was a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was also a one-goal game.
His ice time topped the likes of Hagelin, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky and – here’s an eye-opener – Marian Gaborik. In fact, Kreider saw nearly as much ice time as Anisimov and Dubinsky combined. Granted, Dubinsky is struggling with a lower-body injury that may have been a factor two games ago. But don’t let that cloud the fact Kreider was leaned on in the most important game of the year (so far) and a tight one to boot.
Coach John Tortorella doesn’t hand ice time out to anybody. It has to be earned, no matter the name on the back of the sweater. In fact, it’s the opposite – he’ll be harder on the unproven rookies when it comes to doling out the ice time. So the fact Kreider received more than 18 minutes in a Game 7, followed by 15:28 in Game 1 of the second round speaks volumes.
It’s clear Kreider has earned his spot now, even if Boyle returns. But poolies are wondering what to expect from him next season. I’d like to pull out the Blake Wheeler template.
Wheeler was another high draft pick (fifth overall, 2004) who made the jump to pro at the age of 22. He might have joined Boston as a 21-year-old in the post-season prior to that, much like Kreider with the Rangers this season, but Wheeler didn’t sign with the B’s until the summer. He’s a big man blessed with good hands. He posted 45, 38 and 44 points in his first three campaigns. That’s an average of 42 points per season. If I were a betting man, I would bet that Kreider averages the same number, plus or minus five points. Wheeler then went on to explode for 64 points this season, his fourth. Kreider has the kind of upside to do that as well.
Keith Yandle slipped a little during the regular season and watched his points per game drop from 0.72 (in 2010-11) to 0.52, but he’s in fine playoff form. With seven points, all assists, in eight games, he now has 17 in 19 career playoff contests. That puts him 12th in playoff scoring among defensemen over the past three years and each of the 11 blueliners ahead of him have played at least 26 games.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.
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