Chris Kreider‘s maturation and point production this season solidify him as an invaluable asset to the future of the New York Rangers.

Since his emergence into the NHL during the 2012-13 season, all Rangers fans knew Chris Kreider was a special player. His size, speed, grittiness and determination to get into the dirty areas of the ice had made him a unique talent at the NHL level.

As much as Rangers fans knew this, they also know it wasn’t always so easy for the young NHL star.

Kreider went through growing pains in his early years, with frequent trips up and down from the AHL affiliate Hartford Wolfpack. Under then coach John Tortorella, Kreider was exiled receiving minimal ice time following poor performances. If Kreider made a bad play or took a stupid penalty, he’d find himself riding the bench or back in Hartford. At the time, most Ranger fans were upset because they saw the potential in Kreids.

Guess what?

The organization saw that untapped potential and it’s paying off. Tortorella was tough on Kreider but it shaped him into the power forward that he is today.

Alain Vigneault‘s influence on Kreider

Since the hire of Alain Vigneault and the implementation of his highflying offensive scheme, Kreider has thrived on the ice. During his first full-time season with the Blueshirts, Kreider played in 66 games compiling 37 points with 17 goals and 21 assists. In his next two seasons, Chris was able to improve his game by scoring 46 point in 14-15 and 43 points in 15-16. As Kreider matured, he also learned to control his emotions on the ice reducing his penalty minutes from 2014 onward.

Before this season started, many Rangers fan were questioning what Kreider had to offer. With the potential seen in his play and his fire to excel on the ice, 40-point seasons just aren’t going to cut it. You can tell by his play on the ice and his motivation in the locker room, he can offer a hell of a lot more than he has given in the first two seasons.

Will the real Chris Kreider please stand up?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the real Chris Kreider has arrived in New York.

His performance on the ice has improved to where he is noticeable on the ice every game. No more disappearing acts for weeks at a time. Kreider can now be seen driving the puck to the net, using his size to battle in front of the net, and taking high quality shots from all areas of the ice. His numbers have also taken a large jump this season. Through 57 games this season, Kreider has netted a career high 23 goals while also accruing 19 assists for a total of 42 points. With 30 games left to play, Kreider will likely have career high years in assists and points as well.

Kreider still has room to improve but is trending up. His net-front presence on the power play has improved but still needs tweaking. He often finds himself a split second behind the movements of the goalie, allowing the puck to be easily tracked. Players can always improved their discipline on the ice to reduce unwanted penalties, especially in the offensive zone, where most of Kreider’s penalties occur. These improvements will iron themselves out as Kreider continues to mature and grow as a hockey player in years to come.

What’s his contract like?

Kreider signed a four-year, 18.5 million-dollar deal on Jul. 22, 2016. This deal lends a cap hit of 4.65 million per season. Players with similar contracts include Kyle Palmieri, Mike Hoffman and Nikita Kucherov. With the contract behind him Kreider has been able to focus on his play and improve everyday. Expect Kreider to remain a Ranger for the remainder of his contract and possibly the remainder of his career. His character on and off the ice will solidify him in Rangers history forever.

Rangers’ Enforcer?

Kreider has also been designated as the Rangers “enforcer.” A month after Henrik Lundqvist was drilled byDallas Stars forward Cody Eakin, Kreider was the one to step up and show Eakin who’s boss. A player with so much skill shouldn’t have to drop the gloves and chuck knucks. However, that is where the current New York Rangers team stands. Someone has to do it.

What about the Playoffs?

Kreider is damn good in the playoffs too, compiling 20 goals and 13 assists in his 65 playoffs games. At the age of 25, Kreider has been involved in playoff hockey his entire career. Playing 65 Stanley Cup playoff games by the age of 25, the kid shows the “veteran” poise in the most important games and we’re looking forward to many more playoff runs under the wing of Kreids

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