When Chris Kreider joined the Rangers just shy of 12 years ago for their 2012 playoff run to the Eastern Conference final, the Rangers executives who had drafted Kreider No. 19 in 2009 felt like they were adding a special player to the team.

As Kreider passes 300 career goals, becoming only the third player in franchise history to hit that mark, it’s been quite a journey from that trial by fire. He’s still a unique player, hard to move from his usual spot in front of the opposing net but also one who still possesses remarkable speed for a soon-to-be 33-year-old with over 800 NHL games under his belt, plus another 107 playoff games. And he already holds the Rangers franchise record with 40 playoff goals.

He’s also gone from a quiet, almost shy 20-year-old — one who, according to people in the room, got a “you’re all in or you shouldn’t leave college” talk from Mark Messier that helped convince Kreider and his parents that leaving Boston College after his junior year was the right move — to a leader who does a lot behind the scenes and in the offseason to make sure teammates feel welcomed.

Kreider is also a poor choice to ask why he’s been so effective and so beloved for so long. So we marked his path to 300 by asking the 10 players who have assisted on the most Kreider goals for their favorite stories of No. 20, on and off the ice.

Mika Zibanejad — 92 assists on Kreider goals

What makes Kreider so unique: “Everyone talks about how good he is in front of the net and that’s easy to talk about, just be like, ‘Yeah, he’s good at tipping pucks.’ You see guys tip pucks all around the league. But the way he’s done it, how long he’s done it and you still can’t stop him. You see him sometimes battling a guy in front of the net with one hand on his stick, to kind of like give himself some room to tip the puck. He just knows how to do things like that. And he has a great shot too. He knows how to score. It’s just impressive what he’s been able to do.”

Favorite Kreider goal: “There’s net-front ones, yeah, but when he gets wide and when he gets going up the ice — you bank the puck off the boards right behind him and he skates onto it, or when you give it right to him and he just goes down the left wing, snaps it short side. I’ve seen those plenty. A little bit of a trademark for him. And all those tips. But when he gets going up the wing, snaps it short side or pulls it around to go far side, goalies have to respect the shot. If they don’t, he snaps it; if they do, he can tuck it and go around them.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “It’s probably just the way he is with the young guys. Even me, there was one summer I stayed with him for a little bit. I didn’t stay too long but just him being so welcoming. I don’t know if I can put it all into one thing, one story that describes him as a person. Once you get to know him, there’s a lot more to it. There’s him being a great guy and he’s great in terms of when he meets people, he gives them time — how much he cares about people around him, family and friends. It’s hard. I would need way more time than just this to describe him as a person and a friend. There’s a lot of good reasons why I’m so close to him.”

What makes Kreider so unique: “There’s his ability around the net. It’s one thing to say scoring around the crease is easy, but you’ve got to get there, you’ve got to know positioning, how to deflect pucks and the way he’s just able to find pucks, find tips, it’s pretty impressive. He’s always been that guy who’s focused on his body and there’s probably a lot more you don’t see in terms of food, workouts, everything like that. You see the age curve and you always think of 30s as the start of the decline but when you keep your body in check, you’re constantly working on things, not everyone has to fit that mold. The way he’s been able to produce past 30 has been impressive.”

Favorite Kreider goal: “There’s been a ton before I was here, but maybe that Game 7 against Pittsburgh (in 2022), the first one in that game, a one-t from Mika. That was my first Game 7 and it really got the crowd into it, even though it finished up a little differently. That one definitely comes to mind.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “Before I even got to the Rangers, he was on that World Championship team (with Fox in 2019), I was working out with (Ben) Prentiss (Kreider’s longtime trainer) and Kreids was there in the summer, he’d have me over a lot. I don’t have a funny story necessarily, but him just welcoming me before I ever played a game here is something I’m always thankful for.”

What makes Kreider so unique: “I think he just realize his pluses in his game right away and just use them. Pretty big guy, one of the best in front of the net. So much hard work too, part of what makes him a great player. It’s total (package) with him.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “I usually call him Horse. Because I don’t have enough English, I think ‘horse’ is like, many horses. So I just call him Hor… He’s not happy with that.”

What makes Kreider so unique: “I mean, in front of the net, he’s probably best in the league. They’ve got a good power play of course, he’s playing with good players and he’s a good player too. It’s impressive. Too bad I got traded or he would have gotten (to 300) faster.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “I just remember him coming in from college (in 2012), a big kid, strong. I remember him getting his arms rubbed out (by the massage therapist) after his first practice because he wasn’t used to shooting so many pucks and I’m thinking, ‘Who is this kid?’ [Note: Brian Boyle recalled that same moment, adding that longtime Rangers trainer Jim Ramsay called out to Boyle to “Get a hold of your BC boy!”]

“He turned out to be a great guy, good friend and we have lots of good memories from the years we played together. I’m really happy for him and I hope he keeps it going.”

Derek Stepan — 38 assists

What makes Kreider so unique: “You talk about his physical attributes, which are just off the charts. Even when he was a kid and first came in, he was a monster — he was already a man at 20 as far as the physical side. And what Kreids has done extremely well over his career is make adjustments. He’s a power forward but he’s added skills along the way so that he can change his game as he’s gotten older. He’s just super unique.”

Favorite Kreider goal: “I remember his first one in Ottawa in the playoffs. I remember he scored a nice one on Marty (Brodeur) in Game 1 that playoff year. The one when he tied (Game 5) against Washington (in 2015), that was huge. We had so many goals when we played on a line together where we’d just use his speed, I’d throw one up off the wall and he’d go get it. He had some big ones.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “Stories? Yeah, there’s a few. My wife made dinner for him one night. In Minnesota we call them hot beef sandwiches — she’d make a big roast beef, you’d have onions and gravy, mashed potatoes on the side. She’d make it every so often and we’d have sandwiches for a few days after. So we invite Kreids over, tell him eat all you want, there’s plenty. First time we didn’t have leftovers. He was full when he left — if he wasn’t, he should be in an eating contest or something.

“And we used to joke that when I’d send those passes up the wall and he’d use his speed to get to them that we were playing fetch. So we get on the ice for practice one day and I grab a puck and go, ‘Kreids, go fetch, go get the ball.’ Like he’s my puppy or something. So me and (Dan Girardi) are skating around and G looks over my shoulder and just cracks up — I turn around and there’s Kreids with a puck in his mouth. Just drops it at my feet.”

What makes Kreider so unique: “Skill set aside, a lot of guys have identity crises — they don’t know who they are as players. For Kreids, it’s the opposite. He knows exactly who he is and what works best for him. Guys sometimes want to be something that they’re not, but Kreids has had a handle on his game for a long time. He’s very professional in how he takes care of himself and now, even at his age, he’s probably in the best shape of his life. He really thrives on being comfortable, in a familiar environment and that’s why he wanted to stay a few years ago when he was coming up on free agency. It’s just a perfect combination of player and team.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “I assisted on his 50th goal (in 2021-22), that was pretty surreal. It’s almost hard to believe it was 50, it’s so rare, especially in that organization. In the big games he always seems to get one or two, think about the goals he scored late in that Pittsburgh series that helped us advance. He always would joke around that he’s good at 4-5 things, but he’s really good at them.”

What makes Kreider so unique: “I feel like he’s pretty rare nowadays, you used to see more guys who played his style, a really good net-front guy you can’t move around. He’s going to get there and stay there. Nowadays I feel like guys get boxed out easier. A (Tomas) Holmstrom type, that’s how Kreids is. He’s one of the strongest guys out there and he’s one of the fastest guys too. That’s pretty unique.”

Favorite Kreider goal: “I feel like he got about 55 breakaways the year he scored (52). He scored one of those against us in Carolina in Game 7 (in 2022), breakaway, backhand. That one sticks out.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “There’s one that goes back to one of his first years here, I wasn’t here but I love hearing it. Him and J.T. Miller got called into (Alain Vigneault’s) office for something… I can’t say more, but it is top-notch.”

What makes Kreider so unique: “Just his stature has always stood out to me, how well he can skate and move and at the same time be physically imposing on you. You always have to be aware of where he is on the ice because he can blow by you in a second. He’s obviously got a great touch around the net and he pays the price every night for sure — sometimes you don’t even want to waste energy trying to move him. It’s lose-lose with him in front of the net, especially on the power play.”

Favorite Kreider goal: “I don’t have one goal that stands out, maybe the one against Washington (Game 5 in 2015), that was a huge one for us. But there’s those goals between him and Zibanejad, where he’s flying to the back post and he gets the pass maybe five feet behind the defender, you wonder where it’s going and bam — it’s right on the tape. The chemistry those two have is something to see.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “We went on an All-Star break trip once, been to so many weddings with him over the years and what’s always stood out to me is Kreids is just a very humble, kind person. He’s very inclusive of everybody. He’s done a great job over the years, long after I was there, of welcoming guys and staff, making sure everyone’s included. He’s become a really impressive leader over the years.

“When he came up he was a bit of a spacey college kid, you didn’t know quite what to make of him. He’s so intelligent, speaks different languages, plays the piano, he was always kind of surprising us. Now when you see him a bit more vocal, it comes with maturity and it’s fun to see that side of him come out.”

What makes Kreider so unique: “He’s just an impressive person, the way he goes about his business… He’s on a good power play, but it’s hard work going to the net. He works on his craft. He’s a good tipper and he’s good in front. I think that’s where he gets most of his goals. I think it’s just a lot of working on his craft.”

Favorite Kreider goal: “A goal that I’ll always remember was … I think it was against Washington in the second round (in 2015). We were losing late in the game. I think he scored with under two minutes left and then we won in overtime and ended up winning the series. I think Washington got a goal called back and then we went right down and scored. It was just a one-timer, dropped down to one knee, kind of a seeing-eye puck that went through traffic.”

Favorite Kreider memory: “Good memories. I still stay in touch with him. I’m happy for him. I know he’s pretty close to becoming most goals in franchise history [Kreider is still 106 away from tying Rod Gilbert, actually], so it’s pretty cool for the organization. I’m happy for him.”

“I just call him every time ‘Christopher.’ He’s like, ‘Chris,’ like he don’t like it. He says only his mom calls him Christopher. So I call him Christopher all the time, and he’s like ‘—- you!’ every time. At the end, he started laughing at me.”

“You know the guy, third period, with the Rangers? Hayesie, what’s it called that bald guy in New York, third period, he like do that —-? [Hayes, seated nearby in the Blues room, calls out, “Oh, Dancing Larry.”]

“Yeah, Larry dancing! He always wears Kreids’ jersey. I point at him every time, and go, ‘That’s you!’ We’d be in a game, there’s like five minutes left, Kreids is sitting next to me, and I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s you again!’”

“I remember my first couple of years, he couldn’t make a sauce pass. As soon as he make a good saucer in the game, he’s coming up to me, ‘Did you see that? Did you see that?’ He was working hard on that.”

The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford and Michael Russo contributed to this story.

(Photo: Nick Wosika / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)



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