Chris Kreider made his debut for the New York Rangers in playoffs last season, and quickly became the first person in NHL history who’s first two career goals were playoff game winners. He played in 18 contests, and finished with five goals (first person to ever score five times before seeing a regular season game), and two assists for seven points.

He’s also going to win the Calder Trophy next season. Here’s five reasons why:

The Draft

This year’s draft saw defensemen selected with eight of the first 10 picks. While defensemen are certainly capable of winning the Calder Trophy, the position just isn’t as sexy or noticeable as that of being a goal-scorer. And, not to mention, it takes longer for defenseman to reach their potential in the NHL, as the best in the world are mostly stronger, more physical men. Since 1990, the Calder has been won by a defenseman only three times (Bryan Berard, Barret Jackman and Tyler Myers).

The other two top ten picks were Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk, who went to Edmonton (1st) and Montreal (3rd).

Age

Kreider’s big advantage over those two is his age. He went to college (winning two national titles with Boston College) instead of choosing the major junior route, meaning his body (and mind) had more years to develop, and he had more time to mature. That’s a huge leg up when you’re thrown into the NHL fire, and while voters often keep that in mind, I think he’ll do enough to stay on top.

Experience

The NHL still qualifies any player as a rookie who hasn’t played more than 25 games by the start of the season, excluding playoff games. A few years back Logan Couture played 25 regular season games with the Sharks (but not more!), then 15 playoff games, and was still eligible for the Calder the following year. That’s 40 games, and he was still good. It’s bizarre, given the basic rule when it comes to suspension that “a playoff game is worth two regular season games.” A little inconsistent there, NHL.

Kreider doesn’t have that much of an advantage – he only played in 18 playoff contests – but those games matter. After my college season, I played some games with the local ECHL team (though I had higher aspirations) because so many hockey people told me that playing some pro hockey before going to tryouts the next year would make a big difference, and they were right – I was far more comfortable heading to camp the next season knowing more of what to expect.

Kreider now knows the pace, the pressure, the physical play…he knows what to expect, so he’ll likely have a shorter “feeling out” period, and should get off to a better start. Now he just has to be the best he can be.

Size

Nail Yakupov is 5’11″ and 185 pounds. Alex Galchenyuk is 6’1″, 198 pounds. Chris Kreider is 6’3″, 230. He’s a 230 pound NHL rookie goal scorer.

This past season we saw Gabriel Landeskog edge out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the Calder, mostly because he plays a better all-around game, and is the more physical player. Kreider is going to have that edge on the other two forwards we’re discussing (I’m aware there are other sleepers out there, by the way, just focusing on the favourites here) in that regard, not to mention the other thing: if you want to score goals, you have to be able to get to dangerous areas of the ice, and not get pushed off the puck – being big and strong certainly helps in that regard. It doesn’t hurt that Kreider’s release is deadly once he gets there.

Linemates

Yakupov and Galchenyuk will both likely see plenty of ice time for rookies, but they won’t be playing with the quality of players that Kreider will have the luxury of using. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Rangers top-six likely leaves him with any two of Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, or Ryan Callahan.

***

I fell in love with the guy’s game during playoffs, and just can’t conjure up a scenario in my head where he’s not a huge contributor this season. But, I’m open to other votes. If I’m wrong, and Kreider doesn’t claim the Calder…who ya got?

Comments (37)

  1. Mikael Granlund, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mark Scheifele, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murray and Sven Baertschi, to name a few.

    • Really took a hard stance on the topic, hey? We also would have accepted “If not Kreider, then one of the other good rookies.” (I do think Baertschi’s got a real shot though.)

      • You think Brandon Saad should/will/might maybe be in the conversation? Definitely has quality of linemates IF he cracks the Hawks top six.

      • As an Islanders fan, I would imagine writing this blog was like swallowing a pill sideways w/o t a glass of water in sight.

        By the way, you got your wish. Rick Nash is on another team. Cheers.

        • The Isles will have a couple shots at the Calder in the coming years. Strome either this year or next, Brock Nelson is developing in to a top prospect; I could see him and Bjugstad for Florida battle it out in 2013. Matt Donovan could even get in there as a dark horse. He was all AHL rookie team which is a pretty good indicator of NHL success. Here’s some of the highlights of previous winners since 2005:
          Cam Ward (2005), Chris Campoli (2005), Thomas Vanek (2005), Rene Bourque (2005), Kevin Bieksa (2005), Jimmy Howard (2006), Dan Girardi (2006), Mike Green (2006), Ryan Shannon (2006), Jaroslav Halak (2007), Troy Brouwer (2007), Ryan Callahan (2007), Bobby Ryan (2008), Teddy Purcell (2008), Brian Boyle (2008), Alex Goligoski (2008), Nathan Gerbe (2009), Justin Abdelkader (2009), John Carlson (2010), P.K. Subban (2010), Logan Couture (2010), Lars Eller (2010), Tyler Ennis (2010), Erik Gustafsson (2011), Luke Adam (2011) and Zac Dalpe (2011).

          The Rangers can have a Calder as long as they don’t get a Stanley.

      • What’s your take on Huberdeau’s chances?

    • I think Granlund has a pretty solid shot in Minnesota as well. Seems there is a decent chance that he’ll end up with at least one (and maybe two) of Parise, Heatley and Setoguchi on his wing. That’s more talent to work with than any of the other guys mentioned here (outside of Kreider).

    • Dougie won’t get enough ice time to be a factor in the Calder.

  2. I’ll take Schwartz. He is similar to Kreider with respect to the NCAA seasoning and the quality of line mates he will be with. Teams are expecting Kreider to be good and will try to shut him down. I feel Schwartz goes under the radar for the first quarter of the season.

    • Sure, teams will try to shut down Kreider, but I imagine their priorities will lie with shutting down the likes of Richards, Gaborik, or Nash.

    • seriously? you think coaches are going to say “make sure you shut down this kreider guy. none of the other players can hurt us…”

  3. Sven Baertschi if Calgary scores enough as a team for him to score enough individually.
    Certainly looking forward to watching him more than any other rookies aside from possibly Yakupov. Kreider is a beast though, i’ll give you that!

  4. Justin I think you have Bergenheim Syndrome. Every year there is a guy in the playoffs who takes advantage of the top lines being shut down and this year it was Kreider. He’s going to be a really good player but I’m not going to hand him the Calder based on a couple good games in which he was physically more fresh than his competitors. He also could easily get buried on the 3rd line and underwhelm on the boxscore. Also, I don’t see age as an advantage. No non goalie has won a Calder over the age of 21 since Chris Drury in 99. He might make the finals but voters seem to favor younger rookies.

    My money would be on Mikael Granlund. Just pure skill and years playing with grown men already.

    • I think the difference here is that Krieder wasn’t a 3rd a 4th liner who got hot when the top 2 lines were shut down (like Stephen Gionta’s post-season, say). Except for a brief trip to Tortarella’s dog house during the Caps series, Krieder played on the top 2 lines.

    • see also: pisani, fernando.

    • Difference here is that Kreider was a rookie who went straight from NCAA to NHL playoffs. Comparison to Bergenheim makes zero sense. It isn’t like Kreider played in the NHL and got hot in the playoffs.

      Kreider also won’t get buried on 3rd line. Third line is already set with Pyatt, Boyle, Halpern etc.

  5. A lot of Blues faithful think Schwartz is going to start in the AHL since the forward corps is finally healthy (knock on wood)…

    As a Blues homer I’ll go with Tarasenko for Calder. 3 years’ experience already in the KHL playing against men. I think he dropped off the radar a little bit because of his delay coming over, but I just expect that to make him more seasoned and ready…

  6. Forsberg or grigorenko.. insane but not impossible

  7. Good point about the quality of linemates, but 2 of the Rangers players you listed (Gaborik and Nash) aren’t really known for making players around them better. You can apply that quality of linemates argument to Yakupov too; I hear he’ll probably play with Eberle and Nuge. That’s pretty good too; easily the quality of Stepan and Callahan

  8. Very good article on why Krieder is likely to do better than Galch or Yakupov. Everything else was just confusing, there are more than three rookies in the league.

    And did RNH lose the Calder because of his ‘one dimensional play’ or because he was injured and missed a bunch of games? Without injuries he very likely would have been a top 20 scorer, how can you overlook that?

  9. Huberdeau is winning the Calder watch and see

  10. Yakupov, watched a bit of him at the rookie camp in July. He already has the best release of any player on the Oilers and finds his spot when he shoots. It’s not like they’re shy of playing rookies in important roles either. People are going to be surprised by Yak.

  11. Reason #1 why he won’t: Jake the Snake Silfverberg.

  12. “A little inconsistent there, NHL.”

    Every once in a while.

  13. I don’t think Galchenyuk will be in the conversation this year, as it’s unlikely that Montreal keeps him for more than the 9 game trial.

    Montreal does not tend to rush prospects straight in after their draft year. As far as I can tell, the last Montreal prospect to play for the team straight out of junior was Chris Murray, drafted in 1994 – but he only played 3 NHL games, and turned 20 years old in late October of ’94 (he spent most of the year in the AHL). Before that was Vladimir Vujtek (1991-92, 2gp), Gilbert Dionne (1990-91, 2gp), Andre Racicot (1989-90, 1gp), etc.

    The last player to play a reasonable season with Montreal in their first year after being drafted? Petr Svoboda, who played 73 NHL games in 84-85 after being drafted in 1984.

    • Agree with this. Also, Galchenyuk has missed all of last season because of an injury so on top of it generally being a bad idea to graduate a prospect directly from his junior draft year to the NHL, he didn’t even have a junior draft year.
      I am pretty certain he’s playing one more year in Sarnia before he would even be considered for a roster spot.
      Also, the Habs don’t need him on the team to sell tickets and, despite last season’s disaster of epic proportions, they don’t need him to compete for the playoffs. It’s better for the player, and for the team from a contractual standpoint, to let him mature as much as possible outside the NHL before graduating him.

  14. If Brendan Smith gets to 40 points he will be very tough to beat.

    • I was hoping someone would mention him. The Wings need a Calder season out of him.

    • Wings are going to give a few rookies shots, and have opportunities for them to get some significant ice time. Either Smith or Gustav Nyquist could end up on their respective first line/pair. If Nyquist impresses enough to play with Datsyuk all year, he could be a darkhorse. But that’s if the Wings can put the puck in the net this year (and that will only happen if they can get it out of their zone!).

  15. Most of these reasons apply to Ottawa’s Jakob Silfverberg as well. He’ll get a shot with the fourth-highest scoring player of last year, Jason Spezza, and 35-goal man Milan Michalek.

  16. We have seen two 2012-13 Calder finalists go at it in the playoffs already, and I think the safer bet is the one who is running w/ a career @2.00 gaa, .93 sv.

    If the caps play better than coin-flip hockey infront of him, it’s Holtby’s to lose…not Kreider’s.

    • Agreed, it’s Holtby’s to lose and Kreider’s to win. If the Caps waltz into the playoffs with him as #1, then he’s cinch. Kreider has the advantage of not being the only player opposition has to worry about when they check the Ranger forwards. He could pop in a lot of goals. He will, however, have to play D which won’t be required of the Russian rookies.

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