- Eastern Edge
- Written by Russ Miller
The real fantasy lowdown on goalie nemesis Chris Kreider, plus Lars Eller
This week, the Eastern Edge takes a look at two players who haven't fully established themselves at the NHL level yet, but will be looking to parlay this year's playoff success into breakout campaigns in 2014-15.
Chris Kreider burst onto the NHL scene with a surprising playoff performance back in 2011-12. In his final season of college hockey, he recorded 45 points in 44 games for Boston College and then jumped right into the NHL playoffs, where he scored seven points in 18 games.
Kreider struggled the following season, recording only three points in 23 NHL games and had a decent stint in the AHL with 23 points in 48 games. He couldn't reproduce the playoff magic from the previous season and only notched two points in eight playoff games for the Rangers.
This season, the 23-year-old fared much better, scoring four points in six AHL games and 37 points in 66 NHL contests, a 46 point pro-rated pace over 82 games. He's doing even better in this year's playoffs, scoring at close to a point per game clip (11 points in 13 games).
One key component of his success is that he is getting top six ice time with skilled players. In his inaugural playoff performance in 2011-12, Kreider played mostly with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan. In his first NHL regular season, he played on many different line combinations for John Tortorella, the top two being with Callahan and Brad Richards (12 percent of his even-strength shifts), as well as with Arron Asham and Darroll Powe (10.5 percent).
This past season, Kreider played the vast majority of his even-strength shifts with Rick Nash/Derek Stepan (54 percent) and Mats Zuccarello/Derek Stepan (22 percent). In these playoffs, his linemates more than 75 percent of the time were Stepan and Nash.
Another large component that can assist in forecasting points is ice time, especially power play minutes. In addition to Kreider's top six ice time, he is also picking up over three minutes per game on the Rangers top man advantage unit during these playoffs.
If you are in a league that values penalty minutes and hits, the 6-foot-3, 226 pound speedy winger is also going to bring you an abundance of both, thanks to his reckless crease-crashing style. That style, however, may bring some injuries of its own and possibly some retribution for past indiscretions (see Price, Carey; Anderson, Craig or Fleury, Marc-Andre).
Kreider, along with Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, are the notable pending restricted free agents for the Rangers; but there shouldn't be much trouble in getting them all under contract for next season. With Alain Vigneault behind the bench and Kreider's role in the top six all but solidified for next season, look for a nice jump to 60-plus points for this talented troublemaker.
Montreal's Lars Eller had a very good playoff campaign this year with 13 points over 17 games, a 63 point pro-rated pace. Only P.K. Subban's 14 points were better on the team. Eller played the majority of his even-strength shifts with Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque.
Eller's 26 points in 77 regular season games this year were a disappointment, especially considering that he recorded 30 in 46 lockout shortened games (a 54 point pace) during the previous season. The year before that, he had 28 points in 79 games (2011-12).
The big Dane received the fifth most even-strength time on ice among Habs forwards during these playoffs. In the regular season, he also received top six ice time to go along with an average of about a minute and a half on the penalty kill per game and second unit power play duty.
During his excellent 2012-13 run, Eller's linemates were primarily Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust, while during the 2013-14 regular season he skated mostly with Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. And in these playoffs, it was Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque. It doesn't seem to make a difference as to whom he plays with.
It's been very difficult to predict where the 25-year-old will finish in scoring each year, but if he can find some consistency in his game, he could reward his owners with a 50-55 point campaign as early as next season.