In case you missed it last night, Brendan Shanahan inexplicably suspended winger Carl Hagelin for three games for his hit on Daniel Alfredsson. While the hit may have warranted a suspension, the inconsistencies of the suspension rulings are what have most people perplexed. That is not the main point of this story though.
Hagelin’s loss is a big one. He has so much speed that he forces the opposition to play differently. He was one of the reasons why the Rangers had such a dominant season with his puck possession skills, and was clicking on the top line with Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. He will be sorely missed in the Rangers lineup.
But with loss comes opportunity. The Rangers lose Hagelin, but now rookie Chris Kreider has an opportunity to show why he is so highly touted. Kreider has the speed to match Hagelin’s loss, but the real question is about his ability to click with the top line, and to match Hagelin’s dominant puck possession metrics.
Many are not too enamored with Kreider’s stats in college, and these are the people doubting his ability to perform in the NHL. But those are the same people that don’t understand that stats in college are only one aspect of a player’s potential. BC ran four lines evenly en route to a National Championship. The top scorers in the NCCA played on teams that ran two or three lines regularly. Thus, these scoring leaders get significantly more ice time than Kreider.
Kreider has all the tools to become a dominant NHL player. It’s why the Rangers didn’t want to trade Kreider in any deal for Rick Nash. Having the tools is one thing, performing is another. The rookie winger has an opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in 21 years in this organization. He has the opportunity to debut –and make an impact– as a rookie in the playoffs. Tony Amonte was the last Ranger to do so in 1991, now Kreider will likely have his shot.