By Phil Stacey
---- — When he finally had a chance to look back and reflect on what he accomplished last spring, Chris Kreider didn’t focus on the goals he scored, or the sudden stardom that enveloped him as the fresh-out-of-Boston-College rookie helped the New York Rangers reach the Eastern Conference finals.
What Kreider chose to focus on was how he took it all in.
“I liked that I didn’t buckle under any adversity. I was able to stay mild mannered and controlled what I could control,” said the 21-year-old Boxford native, recalling the whirlwind tour that took him from winning his second NCAA title in three years with Boston College smack dab into the heart of the NHL playoffs with the Rangers.
“I liked that I listened and I learned. There was so much I was able to learn from that entire experience.”
Kreider has taken those lessons with him to the American Hockey League, where he’ll begin his first full professional season as a member of the Connecticut Whale.
After scoring five goals — more than any other player in league history who had never previously played an NHL game — and seven points in 18 playoff games, it’s a virtual certainty Kreider would have broken camp with New York had the NHL not locked out its players.
Fortunately for the 6-foot-3, 225-pound winger, he’s eligible to play in the AHL and further his development for as long as the NHL lockout lasts.
“I’m excited to be able to play professional hockey,” said Kreider, who had a penalty shot goal to highlight the Whale’s practice yesterday. “The AHL is the best league when the NHL isn’t around. It’s a great opportunity.
“I think the message that is generally said in this organization is one I really like: ‘You get what you earn.’ I truly believe that.”
Honing his game this summer by lifting weights and skating both locally and down in Connecticut with Ranger players, Kreider sought to work on all aspects of his game, from his work in the defensive zone to continuing to win space for himself along the walls and in front of the opposing net.
It was a no-brainer for the Rangers organization to have the former Masconomet and Phillips Andover star play with the Whale while the NHL is not operating. The team’s former first round pick can continue to work on his game against players his own age (and older), use his exceptional speed to attack the offensive zone and continue to grow as a professional.
Part of growing as a pro is acting like one, said Kreider. He was extremely cognizant of his fellow players when he attended a few of the NHLPA meetings in New York with the league’s owners and commissioner Gary Bettman and how they carried themselves with class. It’s a behavior he plans on copying.
“There are so many things I can get better at,” admitted Kreider. “My mindset hasn’t changed at all; I’m looking at this as an opportunity to mature and grow as a player. I’m definitely
not a finished product.
“I’m excited to get out and play.