When a player arrives on the NHL scene as successfully as Rangers forward Chris Kreider did last spring, it's natural to look for signs of contentment. Sophomore slumps are built on players believing they've already arrived. While Kreider isn't yet a sophomore -- he still hasn't played a single regular-season game in the NHL -- his postseason performance was so impressive that it might have easily led to an inflated ego.
Kreider is currently playing with the Connecticut Whale in the AHL during the lockout, and Jim Schoenfeld has detected no signs that Kreider is coasting on his spring success.
"No, I think he really wants to do well. I think he wants to be a high-end player. He wants to be a difference-maker," said Schoenfeld, whose responsibilities as Rangers assistant GM include being GM of the Whale, on Wednesday. "We've been given every indication that he wants to be better and he wants to continually grow. We're confident he's going to accept instruction, learn and gain experience."
The experience he's gaining right now is invaluable. He showed in the spring that he could handle the pressures of playoff hockey and did it with a poise and calm that showed little indication that he had just arrived from a college campus. But he's still just 21, and getting time in the AHL without the spotlight and microscope in New York should pay off. He has two points in two games so far in the AHL but is still looking for his first goal.
"The American Hockey League is a very good league. It's much underrated," Schoenfeld said. "This is a very difficult league to compete in; if you're not at the top of your game, at the end of the night you can look like a very average player."
The Rangers' chances of winning a Stanley Cup whenever the NHL starts playing again increase dramatically if Kreider emerges as a star. How realistic is that? Here's a best-case, worst-case look at his career potential:
"I think he has the makings of a star, I really do," Schoenfeld said. "His strength, his tremendous skating, his speed and power -- that quick release with the shot ... the ethic young players have to develop is not so much the physical part of the game, it's the mental part regarding consistency. The difference between the very good players and the great players is the great players play at a high level on a more consistent basis."
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