There's plenty of reason to believe Chris Kreider
of Phillips Andover Academy will be the first high school player taken at the 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal.
Scouts and coaches have been impressed with the 17-year-old's quick learning curve and his ability to hit top skating speed in a matter of seconds. A huge shot and the fact he's the top-rated high-school player in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings also doesn't hurt.
"It's certainly a compliment to be rated high like that," Kreider told NHL.com. "But what it says to me is I need to keep working harder because every player on that list is playing harder every day, especially those (Canadian) junior players. When I'm in school, they're probably out shooting or training; so I have to work twice as hard."
In 2008, defenseman Jake Gardiner
of Minnetonka High in Minnesota was the highest-rated scholastic hockey player in North America at No. 23 and was drafted No. 17 by the Anaheim Ducks
. Gardiner was regarded as a big player with speed who possessed a big shot.
"It's encouraging to know that if you work hard, being drafted is within reach," Kreider said.
At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, Kreider is rated No. 14 among North American skaters and is your prototypical power forward, a player who plays as big as he looks.
"I feel he could be the first high-school player taken," said Central Scouting's Jack Barzee, a Midwest-based scout. "He's got all the tools, the size and the skating. When he skates down the wing and spreads his legs wide to protect the puck and gain the zone, it's something to see. There's a flair about him and he definitely has a second gear. He has a little bit of Eric Staal
in him; he's not as thick as Staal, but is really upright and has a little niftiness with the puck."
A native of Boxford, Mass., Kreider already has established career highs with 29 goals and 17 assists for Phillips Andover (Andover, Mass.) this season. He has committed to Boston College for the 2010-11 season.
The Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League selected Kreider in the 10th round of that league's draft last summer, but Kreider has his sights set on playing collegiate hockey.
Since 1998, Boston College has advanced to eight Frozen Fours and played in the national championship game six times.
"I was looking at a lot of other schools in the Boston area, like Boston University and Harvard, and it's hard to dislike anything about any of them," Kreider said. "It was a hard decision, but in the end I loved the players on the Eagles, loved the coaches and loved the location. The fact they had just won a national championship also was pretty big."
Longtime Andover coach Dean Boylan is fully aware of Kreider's incredible upside.
"The scouts who see him know what type of tremendous skills he has and he obviously has great physical strength, but he's an absolutely great character kid," Boylan said. "He's a great kid off the ice, a presence in the locker room and a young man who is forever looking to get better. Character is important to me and Chris is at the top."
In 2007-08, Kreider repeated his sophomore season at Andover after transferring from Masconomet Regional in Topsfield, Mass.
"Chris made a terrific transition here, much sooner than a lot of kids I've seen make the jump from public school," Boylan said.
As a freshman at Masconomet, Kreider had 6 goals and 15 points during an injury-plagued season. He came into his own as a sophomore, racking up 28 goals, including five hat tricks, and 41 points. In 2007-08 at Andover, Kreider notched 26 goals and 41 points.
He isn't a captain, but Boylan can sense a leader within his junior prodigy.
"It's the little things you notice," he said. "We have a number of really good kids on this team, but Chris is helping out the younger kids. It could sometimes be daunting for some of the younger guys to enter this locker room, but Chris is always there to help them out."
"I feel he could be the first high-school player taken. He's got all the tools, the size and the skating. When he skates down the wing and spreads his legs wide to protect the puck and gain the zone, it's something to see."
-- Central Scouting's Jack Barzee
Kreider says he just does what comes naturally and treats his teammates the way he would like to be treated.
"No one will look at you as a leader if you don't show character," Kreider said.
Gary Eggleston, who scouts high school players on the East Coast for Central Scouting, loves what he sees in Kreider.
"He's very dangerous in short-handed situations because of his anticipation, quick stick and intimidating speed," Eggleston said. "He sees the ice very well and is an excellent passer. He gets the puck through small openings and is a very unselfish player. He has an excellent hard and accurate shot, which he gets off on the fly, often surprising the goaltender. He plays the body well, is an aggressive forechecker, works the corners and wins the battles."
Kreider isn't afraid to play the body, particularly when he feels his team may need a spark.
"If I'm not playing as well as I feel I should be, I like to get a little more gritty and play much more blue collar and do what I can for the team," he said. "The thing I enjoy most about today's NHL is the speed of the game. I also enjoy watching the passion that has been brought back into the game. I like to think that I bring speed, passion and grit and, hopefully, consistency each shift."
While he has played center at some points, Kreider prefers the wing.
"I played a little center, but I feel I'm a little more dangerous out on the wing because I can get a little more movement and more jump off the transition," he said. "Everything that has happened to me to this point has been nice, but it really doesn't mean a ton yet, I guess. You just have to keep things in perspective and focus on what's important, enjoy the time you have with your teammates."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.