By Matt Calamia
It’s difficult to believe, but Chris Kreider is in the middle of his first Rangers training camp.
The 2009 first-round pick appeared in just one rookie camp with the team following his draft, but due to his collegiate commitments never formerly participated in an NHL training camp. Last year he took part in the Connecticut Whale's camp due to the NHL lockout, and began his pro career in the AHL.
On Saturday, the 22 year-old forward discussed the positive feelings he and his teammates have entering camp with a “clean slate,” which has been the team motto since camp opened on Wednesday.
“I think everyone’s embracing it. I think it’s a good image to have in the back of your mind,” Kreider told reporters on Saturday afternoon following his group’s on-ice session that consisted mostly of zone drills. “Knowing that you’re coming in with a clean slate — work hard and kind of prove yourself. I think that’s a wonderful motto to have. I think everyone wants to prove themselves.”
A fresh start could be the medicine for the former Boston College star. After bursting onto the scene during the 2012 postseason, Kreider struggled at times during his first NHL season as he adjusted to the pro game and was hobbled throughout by an ankle injury, recording two goals and an assist in 23 regular season contests. He finished strong, though, in the postseason playing alongside Rick Nash, which included an overtime goal in Game 4 against the Boston Bruins.
Kreider, who said he had changed his offseason training regiment but declined to elaborate, stated he has plenty to work on in camp, including his lateral skating, net-front play and puck protection.
On Friday, head coach Alain Vigneault said he chose to avoid learning much about Kreider — aside from a video he had seen of Kreider jumping out of a pool from several years ago on the Internet — because he wanted to see for himself what the young player has to offer.
“There you have a young man that’s full of potential,” Vigneault said. “I think it’s our job … and his to help him become the best player he can be. What that is? I don’t know right now, but any guy who can jump out of a pool like that has a lot of power and a lot of strength.”
Vigneault will use the remainder of camp and preseason games to get to know and evaluate Kreider further, but the bench boss said there is plenty to like.
“If I could say around me, there’s a lot of positives about this young man,” Vigneault added. “Everyone seems to feel he has a lot of talent and a lot of potential and it’s up to us to work together to get it out of him.”
What kind of season do you envision Chris Kreider having in 2013-14? Share your comments below.