GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Following his first practice with the New York Rangers, 20-year-old Chris Kreider made it clear that his time isn't now.
"They definitely sent the message that if you want to play, you have to prove you're ready to play," Kreider said. "You're going to have to earn your ice time. That's the way it should be. I have no expectations coming in, just trying to be a sponge and learn from everyone."
It has been a whirlwind past few days for Kreider, who decided to forego his senior season with Boston College to sign with the Rangers, who made him the 19th pick of the 2009 NHL Draft. How the 6-foot-3, 217-pound winger fits into the lineup of a team that won 51 games and earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference is a question to which no one has an answer right now.
"We are happy he's here and he's a Ranger. From there, we go day by day. I'm not going to tell you any of our lineups. But this is a young man that we feel has a great future, and it started with us today. He signed, he's with us, and we move on with our business."
-- John Tortorella
Kreider was wearing a green jersey along with regular third-liners Brian Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky and Ruslan Fedotenko at practice, but that isn't an indication of where he may end up playing. Coach John Tortorella wouldn't answer any questions about Kreider, but said there's no immediate plan to insert him into the lineup against the Ottawa Senators in a series that starts Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers burned the first year of Kreider's three-year entry-level just by having him practice, but that doesn't mean he's guaranteed a spot in the lineup any time soon.
"We are happy he's here and he's a Ranger," Tortorella said. "From there, we go day by day. I'm not going to tell you any of our lineups. But this is a young man that we feel has a great future, and it started with us today. He signed, he's with us, and we move on with our business."
Kreider had 23 goals and 22 assists in 44 games as a junior and just played on his second national championship-winning team in three seasons at Boston College. Kreider has played mostly on the wing, but said he'd be capable of playing center if that's what the team needed.
Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh, who played at the University of Wisconsin, are among teammates who cut their teeth playing in the NCAA. Kreider said having players who have been through something similar to what he's facing will help.
"That's awesome. It's made the adjustment that much easier," said Kreider, who still wants to get his degree. "Obviously, I'm pretty nervous and pretty excited. Getting here was such a quick turnaround, it was kind of surreal. One minute I was at home, the next I was in a car on the way down here. It's definitely appreciated."
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Boyle also played his hockey at Boston College, and kept in touch with Kreider during the offseason and in the days leading up to his decision to come to the Rangers.
"Yesterday, I gave him a call because I didn't know what the situation was," Boyle said. "If he had any questions, I was going to let him know I went through something like that. He was excited and told me he was coming. We're excited for him. We think he's ready. We're glad he's here."
If inserting a rookie who wasn't part of the 82-game grind this season has the potential to disrupt the team's chemistry, Brad Richards doesn't see it that way.
"It's not like someone that's set in their ways, a veteran coming in that's high-maintenance or needs certain things," Richards said. "It's a great opportunity for him. We're all excited for him. When you go into the playoffs, you're going to need bodies to get where you want to go. It's a good enthusiastic body to get out there.
"He's a really respectful kid. He's quiet. He's going to soak up. I think it's good. We all want to show him what it's like to be in this. I think it's a great opportunity for him to learn and see this time of year. It's only going to help him."
As for the notion that Kreider's presence at the very least can light a fire under some players who may otherwise be underperforming in the postseason, Boyle believes that's not necessary at this time of year. Boyle said that when Kreider is ready, he can be an asset to a team that's already the best in its conference.
"His speed is one of his biggest attributes and he can shoot the puck, too. That was evident today," Boyle said. "He was watching a lot, asking questions. Hopefully we can make him as comfortable as we can because it's tough to come to a new team no matter where you go, but it's tougher when you're coming from college to an NHL team after a full season. We're trying to make this as comfortable and seamless as we can."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo