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October 7, 2011 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

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BC's Chris Kreider Motivated by Academics to Return for Junior Year

by Scott McLaughlin/

When an NHL team gives one of its draft picks the choice to go pro or return to school for another season, it’s not entirely unusual for a player to choose another year of college. What is unusual, though, is when an NHL team makes a strong push to sign a player, but the player decides to stay in school against the wishes of the team that drafted him.

The latter scenario unfolded this summer when the New York Rangers tried to convince Boston College forward Chris Kreider — their 2009 first-round pick — to leave Chestnut Hill after his sophomore season.

As hard as the Rangers pushed, Kreider said it was never all that tough of a decision. He said he was already pretty sure at the end of last season that he was going to return, and that a few conversations with his family and BC coaches reassured him that he was making the right choice. Oddly enough, his decision to come back had little to do with hockey.

“I just wanted to come back and get my degree,” Kreider said in a phone interview. “I know there’s life after hockey. I feel like I’m in a much better position to get my degree coming back for my junior year than if I had left after my sophomore year. It was an academic decision more than a hockey decision.”

That said, Kreider knows he can still improve on the ice before he heads to the NHL. In his two-plus years at BC, Kreider said he has worked on becoming a more complete player. He described himself as “extremely raw” when he got to BC and said that while playing prep hockey at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., he focused mostly on getting himself scoring chances and sometimes neglected other parts of the game.

With the help of his coaches at BC, Kreider has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in Hockey East. His blazing speed might stand out the most (he was the fastest skater at the 2009 draft combine), but Kreider makes just as much — if not more — of an impact with everything else he does. He wins 1-on-1 battles and protects the puck down low. He backchecks hard and rarely gets caught out of position. He can score a goal on the power play one shift and block a shot on the penalty kill the next.

“The goals are what you notice, but there’s so many little things that Chris does,” said BC assistant captain Paul Carey. “Someone has to be in the corners winning the battles, someone has to be killing penalties and doing all the little things you need to win, and a lot of times that’s Chris. You don’t see that, but I think a lot of our goals and scoring opportunities come from Chris’ work.”

That all-around game — along with his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame and aforementioned speed — is what the Rangers love so much about Kreider. It’s what has landed him on not just the last two U.S. world junior teams, but also the last two U.S. world championship teams.

Yet for all of Kreider’s undeniable skill and hard work, it seems almost unbelievable that he hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a season at BC. Of course 24 points is nothing to scoff at; it’s just that Kreider seems more noticeable than most 20- or 25-point scorers in the college game. It feels like he should be closer to the 40- or 50-point range. So is Kreider at all disappointed in his point totals (26 goals, 21 assists in two seasons)?

“Not really,” he said. “I read a Mark Messier quote a while back where he mentioned that you don’t focus so much on goals and assists, but just do whatever it takes to win. That’s the mentality of this program — we all want to win here. We all appreciate a blocked shot as much as a goal. So for me, it’s just doing whatever it takes to help our team win, to be an effective player night in, night out.”

But does he expect to make a jump offensively and become an elite scorer this season? Kreider said that’s not really something he’s worried about. He said he has talked with the BC coaching staff about what his role is going to be this season and what’s going to be expected of him, and that everyone agreed it was best for him to just continue doing what he’s been doing.

Eagles coach Jerry York said he does think Kreider will score more this season, but that he doesn’t want Kreider thinking about scoring more and getting distracted by it.

“I think he has that in him,” York said of the possible jump to the 40-point plateau. “But I think we’d just like him to play a complete hockey game, with the puck and without the puck, and just get better in all facets of the game. He’s improved over his first two years, and I’m certain that he’ll take a big step this year, too.”

If he does, Kreider can expect the Rangers to make an even stronger push next offseason.
 

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