We all know that Chris Kreider is having a career year. Prior to this season, his career high was 28 goals, and 53 points, and he’s already blown past both those marks and still has 21 games remaining. He’s also threatening to become just the fourth player in Rangers history to reach the 50 goal mark, following in the footsteps of Vic Hadfield – 50 in the 1971-72 season, Adam Graves – 52 in 1993-94, and Jaromir Jagr‘s franchise record 54 set back in 2005-06.
It would be an impressive milestone for the Rangers veteran winger, who was more of a streaky scorer prior to this year. In some ways, he’s been building to this. The addition of Artemi Panarin two and a half years ago, really changed the dynamic on the Rangers power play, where Kreider has gotten over half his goals this year. Add in the emergenve of Adam Fox last year, and the progression of Mika Zibanejad, and Kreider finally has players around him that can help him better make use of his ability to setup in front and a keen eye for deflecting pucks.
Earlier in his career, it was much more likely that you’d see Kreider scoring goals off the rush as he outskated defenders and wristed a shot from out near the hash marks, beating the goalie one on one. Sure he was good in front of the net, but this year is where he’s really cashed in. Last night’s goal aside, the vast majority of Kreider’s goals this year have come from in and around the net, taking advantage of his size, strength and quick hands to convert far more than he’s done in the past.
It’s all the more remarkable when you consider how close he came to being moved. Just two seasons ago, it took right down to the deadline for the Rangers and player to come to terms for a six year, $6.5M AAV contract that looked risky at the time. With the threat of a trade hanging over him, and a team that was in rebuild mode, it would have been very easy to move forward without him. Instead, then GM Jeff Gorton made the commitment, and the Rangers are definitely reaping the benefit this year.
With new career marks in goals (40) and points (55), Kreider already has set career milestones, not to mention a career best 21 power play goals, the big winger is poised to challenge franchise marks for goals and power play goals.
In some ways, he stands in a similar position to where Jagr stood back in 2005-06. Like that season, the Rangers were looking to return to the playoffs for the first time in a few years. Back then, it was an eight-year absence, then time around it’s just 3 years – if you exclude the 3-0 play-in series back in the COVID affected 2019-20 season.
He’s also in a position to challenge those same franchise marks, either potentially equalling or passing Jagr’s records for goals (54) and power play goals (24). With 21 scored on the power play already, it seems likely that he’ll set a new franchise record, though, while he’d have to score 15 goals to set a new mark in that category.
However the season ends, it’s certainly be a remarkable one for the former first round pick, and one that has been an important part of the Rangers’ success this year.