HARTFORD — Six months ago, Chris Kreider jumped into the deep end of the hockey pool.
After winning an
But with the
And that's good news for hockey fans in Greater Hartford. For as long as the NHL lockout lasts, Whale fans will see one of the most dynamic young talents in the sport.
Consider Kreider’s first game in Hartford. As the Whale beat Worcester 4-3 in their final preseason game Sunday afternoon at the
"Preseason," Kreider said after the game. "It's just an exhibition game, right? Obviously whenever you get on the ice, you want to win. But at the same time, it's preseason."
It was Kreider's second preseason game for the Whale. He also scored an empty-net goal in a win over Adirondack Saturday.
Skating with veterans
At 6 feet 3, 230 pounds, he has the size to out-muscle defensemen. On his first goal Sunday, Kreider took the puck from an opponents in the Whale's zone and used his speed to start a 2-on-1 break before scoring on a slapshot from the left circle.
His third goal came on wrist shot from the left side, off a pass from Newbury.
“Those are two of his assets, that wide speed and that shot,” Whale coach
Kreider insists he still has a lot to learn and welcomes the opportunity to play in the AHL. Newbury and Kolarik, he said, can help teach him nuances of the game.
"Each new level of play, there's a different kind of flow to it," Kreider said. "When to circle, continue on with the forecheck, when to finish the guy, when to stop and get back up ice. Little things."
And while Kreider shined in his 18-game NHL playoff audition, the AHL will provide a different set of challenges. The players are big and the pace of the game is fast, plus he'll learn to deal with the daily grind of the minor leagues.
What did he learn from his NHL experience? Effort on every shift in every game is essential.
"It's so fast," Kreider said. "Sometimes you're making good decisions, sometimes you're not. You never really had time to assess where your game is at. … But the pace of the play [is different than college]. The players are obviously faster, but the puck's moving so fast and you have to know what to do two steps ahead of the game itself. You always have to be ready."
Kreider skated over the summer, although he held off until later in the summer in hopes of staying fresh throughout his first full professional season. But he didn't spend much time contemplating his post-college spring in New York.