GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Chris Kreider paused for 39 seconds after hearing the question.

What does it mean to you to be a New York Ranger?

He stared up in the air, looked down at his skates, beads of sweat dropping from his forehead to the floor in between his blades, and then the 32-year-old forward formulated an answer.

"I think the cliché would be it's obviously a tremendous honor to play for this franchise, an Original Six franchise, a hockey team that has been around as long as it has in one of the biggest and best cities in the world, the best city in the world if I can be biased," Kreider said. "The non-cliché answer is it comes with a responsibility to conduct yourself in a certain way every day. I think about Henrik Lundqvist as the ultimate example of what a New York Ranger is; how to conduct yourself away from the rink, how to conduct yourself away and at the rink as a professional, your approach to winning, what you ask from yourself and from your teammates. It's an organization and a city that expects to be competitive and expects to win, expects their players to want to do whatever it takes to win.

"But I don't know what it's like to be anything other than a New York Ranger."

He has no interest in finding out because of everything he said about the Rangers and his experience in New York, which began in 2012.

It will stay that way if all goes to plan.

Kreider, who is signed through the 2026-27 season, likely has a lot of games left in his NHL playing career and could be the next player in this almost 98-year-old franchise to see his jersey number raised to the rafters at Madison Square Garden.

Ed Giacomin (1), Brian Leetch (2), Harry Howell (3), Rod Gilbert (7), Andy Bathgate (9), Adam Graves (9), Mark Messier (11), Vic Hadfield (11), Jean Ratelle (19), Lundqvist (30), Mike Richter (35).

Kreider (20)?

He has been building to that status in Rangers history for some time. The proof is in his play, who he has passed on all-time goal-scoring lists and the records he's still chasing, and what the people around the team feel he has done for the organization.

There's a chance he can do something even bigger this season, help the Rangers do something that hasn't been done in 30 years: win the Stanley Cup.

The Rangers enter the playoffs as the top overall seed, winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 114 points. They will face the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round, which begins this weekend.

"I do believe that Chris understands and is so much about the privilege of being a Ranger, wearing that Rangers uniform on Garden ice and being a part of the greater Rangers family," said Graves, who was a part of the 1994 championship team and remains with the Rangers in a hockey and business operations role. "Chris understands better than anyone that it is a privilege and that's why he's such a great example both on and off the ice. It's his respect and love for that uniform and the privilege for being a Ranger, and he represents it so very well."

MTL@NYR: Kreider gets a piece of Panarin's shot for PPG

On the ice, Kreider is one of the greatest goal-scorers in Rangers history.

With his 39 goals this season, he now has 304 in his career, good for third all-time in Rangers history, 23 more than Graves. He’s 32 behind Jean Ratelle (336) for second and 102 behind leader Rod Gilbert (406).

His 18 power-play goals this season gave him 110 for his career, which is second in Rangers history, two ahead of Gilbert and six behind leader Camille Henry.

Kreider scored at least 20 goals in six of seven seasons from 2014-21 before breaking out with 52 in 2021-22, tying Graves for the second most in a single season in Rangers history behind Jaromir Jagr's 54 in 2005-06. He had 36 last season.

"I feel like he gets better and better every year," center Mika Zibanejad said. "You don't see a whole lot of players get better after 30. That's rare. I think he still gets better. He's really put his stamp on what he is in this league and what he can do."

Kreider has become arguably the best netfront player on the power play in the NHL with his ability to score on deflections, tips and from the side of the net on an angled stick redirection.

"Everyone knows where he's going and everyone knows what he's doing yet you can't stop it," Zibanejad said. "That says a lot about him."

Kreider is the only left-handed shooter on a top power-play unit that features dangerous shooters in Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Adam Fox.

"I think he's the straw that stirs the drink [on the power play]," Vancouver Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said. "What happens is when you're a PK coach you're worried about Panarin, you're worried about Zibanejad's one-timer, you're worried about Fox's deception and Trocheck in the middle. But you've got to worry about Kreider. So now you worry about Kreider and one of those guys is going to be open. Wherever it goes, if they beat pressure it goes to the net and what's the end result? Kreider."

Moving him from that area is near impossible, opponents say.

Kreider is 6-foot-3 and 233 pounds.

"When he's in and he establishes that spot it's his and there's really not a lot you can do," said Canucks forward J.T. Miller, who played with Kreider in New York from 2013-18. "You might as well play off and try to hit his stick, but then you're giving up a screen. It's a perk of being really big. It's an art, but he's also got the skill and patience to do know when to do his side tips, stuff like that. He's a guy that can score an unlimited amount of goals every year if he's in the right spot."

Off the ice, Kreider said he has followed in the footsteps of the players who helped guide him when he got to the NHL to be a leader in the Rangers dressing room.

"I had some incredible examples right away in Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi -- guys who don't take for granted what it means to play here and who wanted to take advantage of the time that they had here," Kreider said. "For as much fun as they might have at dinner or joking around in the locker room, they know what to do when it's time to get down to work."

Kreider signed the seven-year contract he's currently playing through on Feb. 24, 2020, when the Rangers were in the middle of a rebuild.

He bought in when it was hard to see the future, and it's paying off.

"Regardless of the group of players we have in my time here, regardless of the coaching staffs, I think being a New York Ranger is coming to the rink every day and fostering a culture of winning hockey, trying to get the most out of yourself and your teammates, and being a good person away from the rink," Kreider said. "To play for the New York Rangers, it's being part of a family."

Part of that family is being present in the Rangers community. Graves praised Kreider for his work with the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a non-profit organization through MSG Entertainment and MSG Sports that creates opportunities for kids and young people in need.

"Chris does so many things quietly but he's such a big part and a leader with Garden of Dreams," Graves said. "He has a special way with kids and being able to communicate and finding time. He is so patient. For me, that's a special part of who he is. Regardless of how old people are, fans, supporters, kids in our Garden of Dreams program, he has the ability to communicate and a way of connecting to where they know he's completely invested in where ever he is and whatever different event we have had over the years. I can't tell you how many young people in our Garden of Dreams who share stories about how much time Chris has taken out of his own personal time to spend with them. He puts them as a priority.

"I've often said the greatest gift hockey will give you is the people you meet along the way and the ability to be a part of a community. Chris would be one of those people for me."

Graves said he can see the day when Kreider returns to the Garden as an ambassador for the Rangers, like he has so many times over the years and Lundqvist is beginning to experience.

"Without question, but with that being said I am in no rush to put pressure on Chris to move past his career because I think he's got so much great hockey ahead of him," Graves said. "His future is wide open post career, but my focus is to support Chris as he's writing his Rangers story and he has so much great hockey ahead of him."

He has more Rangers records to chase and potentially set, and maybe before any thought is put into his No. 20 going up to the Garden rafters, Kreider, like Graves, Richter, Leetch and Messier, will help put a Stanley Cup championship banner up there first.

Maybe it happens this season.

"He highlights and he represents what a New York Ranger is on and off the ice," Zibanejad said.