Connecticut Whale practice commenced at 10:00 AM at the XL Center yesterday morning and proceeded past 11:00 as head coach Ken Gernander not only conducted on-ice drills, but provided a string of teaching moments for his team.
From there most of the players found their way into the weight room for off-ice work, and by around 12:30 the arena, locker room, and strength and conditioning facilities were mostly empty---except for the areas where Dylan McIlrath and Christian Thomas guided a camera crew as they filmed the next Insider segment for BlueshirtsUnited.com.
Then at 1:00 Whale assistant Pat Boller curiously skated out on to the ice. Any questions as to why he had returned were answered moments later when Chris Kreider emerged from the tunnel and joined Boller on the ice. Kreider was not yet finished with his work day.
And it is this tremendous dedication and work ethic that is going to lift Chris Kreider to NHL stardom one day because with Kreider it's not just the world-class speed, soft hands, on and off-ice intelligence, and 6-foot-3 230 pound frame that sets him apart---though all of that certainly helps make him an elite level prospect. It is how hard he works at his craft that captures you.
And there he was Wednesday in an empty XL Center, long after everyone had gone home, tirelessly looking to perfect his shot with the aid of a helpful assistant coach.
Kreider routinely is the last, or among the last, player to exit the ice following Whale practice each and every day, usually with undrafted rookie Kyle Jean staying another 30 minutes or so working right alongside him. But on Wednesday Kreider took it a step further by creating his own double-session, if you will.
There's no doubt Kreider is none too happy with his start with the Whale this season---one goal in his first 11 games, though tied for fourth on the team with seven points. But behind the scenes, away from what most people can see, he is doing things that should quiet the fears of fans who are focusing solely on his AHL numbers.
All along the Rangers top pick in the 2009 draft has said that he has much to learn---comments echoed by John Tortorella, Jim Schoenfeld, and Gernander---despite exploding on the scene last spring with five goals and seven points during the Rangers playoff run immediately after winning a second NCAA Championship at Boston College. And that has proven to be correct.
But in the bigger picture, and projecting days, months, and years ahead, it's clear to those within the organization, and people like me fortunate enough to catch these behind the scenes glimpses, it's easy to see why and how Chris Kreider is going to be everything and then some that Rangers fans pray he will be in the NHL.
November 15, 2012