Not many hockey players at any level had a better season in 2009-10 than Chris Kreider. But the New York Rangers prospect is determined to use that season as a foundation for better things.
Kreider's good fortune really started in June in Montreal, when the Rangers made the big, speedy center the 19th pick of the 2009 Entry Draft. From there he won a gold medal at the World Junior Championship, an NCAA title at Boston College and earned a chance to play with the U.S. at the World Championship in Germany.
"It was such a whirlwind year, I didn't want it to end," Kreider told NHL.com. "It was a great year, but that's behind me now; I don't want that to be the best year of my career. I want to keep going and keep doing big things."
Courtesy: Sarah E. Sheu
He's already got that started, with a solid showing at USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in August in Lake Placid. Kreider parlayed a strong camp last year into a head-turning performance in Saskatoon. He had a hat trick in a preliminary-round game against Latvia, and tied for the team lead with 6 goals.
As great as the on-ice experience was for Kreider, he gained just as much off the ice.
"Probably the biggest thing I learned in Saskatoon was how important leadership is," he said. "I played on some teams with great leaders, but we had probably 10 or 11 leaders and you hear the old cliché, everyone can lead in their own way, but everyone did take the reins at some point and show us the way. If it wasn't one guy it was another. I came to terms with how important it is if you want to win."
Kreider continued his strong play when he got back to BC, and the freshman finished fifth on the team with 15 goals -- his final goal of the season gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead against Wisconsin in the national title game, a game they eventually won, 5-0.
After that, it was off to Germany with the U.S. for the World Championships. Despite being the youngest player on the team, Kreider had a goal and an assist in six games, while playing just over 10 minutes per game.
Just being around NHL players made a lasting impression on Kreider. He said his roommate in Germany, U.S. captain Jack Johnson, had a great influence on him.
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"He isn't that much older than I am, but he really acts it," Kreider said. "He's so mature for his age, he's a world-class player, an Olympian. He had so much wisdom, so much to tell me. Also Scott Clemmensen, former BC goaltender, he was able to tell me about his time there and we really connected. He really helped me, too."
He said he learned just as much watching his teammates as he did playing with them.
"I learned so much off ice and on the ice," he said. "The professional lifestyle, how they prepare for games, how they carry themselves. On the ice there was so much I could have learned. I wish I could have kept on playing with those guys for a while."
He's taken those lessons and brought them with him to his first big event of the 2010-11 season, the USA Hockey junior camp in Lake Placid, where he's competing for a chance to help the U.S. defend its gold medal in Buffalo when the 2011 World Junior Championship is held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2011.
He certainly made U.S. WJC coach Keith Allain a believer.
"The one thing that jumps out when you look at Chris is his speed, and he's got world-class speed," Allain said. "We're a team that wants to play a speed game and he certainly brings that element.
"I think he's also the type of person that learns from experiences, and not everyone does. We're going to be looking for a lot from Chris."