Chris Kreider is having one heck of a year! The Valley Jr Warriors standout, who has been a critical cog in Ken Cleary’s U18 squad this season, was ranked No. 14 overall in the Central Scouting Rankings which were released this week. That accomplishment simply confirms that the longtime VJW player and current junior from Philips Andover is simply one of the best players in the country.
2008 USA Hockey Select 17 participants shown left to right: Ben Wiggins, Ryan Heavey, Chris Kreider and Glenn Stowell.
“Being ranked that high is an impressive feat, especially for a kid who has one more year of high school left,” noted Fred Devereaux, VJW director of player development and current NHL scout for the Calgary Flames. “Chris has elevated his game over the past few years and has attracted the attention of the best teams in the NHL.”
It is no surprise that Kreider’s name is being mentioned among the best in the world. After all, the 6’2, 201-pound left wing/center has been considered by many to be the best high school hockey player in Massachusetts. This past summer, Kreider was one of four VJW players who traveled to St. Cloud, Minnesota to take part in the USA Hockey Select 17 Camp.
“Participating in US National Camp was a huge step for him,” explains Devereaux who also noted that VJW players Ben Wiggins, Ryan Heavey and Glenn Stowell also competed in St. Cloud this past summer. “If he continues to grow and develop, there is no question that he will be drafted in the first round come the June NHL Draft.”
Kreider, a Boxford native, has been drawing the attention of nearly everyone he meets even during his early days as a Mite player in the VJW program. His current VJW coach - Ken Cleary - remembers him as an alternate on the '91 Squirt Major team. When Cleary took over the squad the following year - as a Peewee Minor coach - he brought Chris on board as a full-time player. For the past seven years, Coach Cleary has been with Chris every step of the way and has seen his game grow and mature.
"Chris has always been a great natural talent as a skater and a scorer," said Cleary, who noted that Chris played up a level with the VJW U18 team this past season. "Two things have made him the player he is today: his willingness to learn the game and also his understanding that hockey is a full tilt, full speed game every shift."
A future in the NHL may be in his future, but Kreider is focused on his next destination… Boston College. Last year, Kreider accepted a scholarship offer from the Hockey East powerhouse and will join Jerry York’s squad come the fall of 2010.
"He has always had great anticipation and is a very intelligent player," offered Cleary. "Chris is a great prospect."
For more information on Chris Kreider, read the following article which appeared in a recent issue of the Salem Evening News.
The Blue Line Report Posted on January 9, 2009 By Phil Stacey
For Christmas, the big present in the Kreider household in Boxford was getting the NHL Network. That meant they could catch up on highlights of every pro game, get expert analysis and watch live games. It also meant that their son, the immensely talented Chris Kreider, could watch — or more accurately, engross himself in studying — the best underage players in the world during the cable channel's live game broadcasts of the World Junior Championships in Ottawa.
"The level of hockey those kids play at ...," Kreider remarked, his voice trailing off. "They're playing at a whole level above me. You watch guys like John Tavares, Jordan Eberle (both of Team Canada) and (Team USA linemates) Colin Wilson, James van Riemsdyk and Jordan Schroeder, and there are no holes in their games. "That's the level I want to get to."
Reaching that dream is probably closer than even Kreider realizes. A junior playing at Phillips Andover Academy, the 6-foot-2, 201-pound left wing/center is generally regarded as the best high school hockey player in Massachusetts, talented enough that he's being projected to go in the first two rounds of the 2009 NHL Draft this June.
You read that correctly; the 17-year-old Kreider, who has 14 goals and 20 points in just eight games this winter, could be drafted by an NHL team — and still have a year of high school remaining.
"He's off to a really, really good start this season," said his coach, Phillips Andover mentor Dean Boylan, his team 7-1 going into today's contest against vs. Proctor Academy. "But beyond the goal scoring, Chris is doing all the little things in all three zones well. He just continues to work at making himself better."
Already ticketed to attend Boston College on scholarship in the fall of 2010, Kreider has been drawing the attention of NHL scouts for some time now. His explosive skating ability, soft hands, deadly shot and tremendous upside have them showing up at prep school rinks all over New England to watch him play.
Boylan, who has seen former Big Blue players Cory Schneider of Marblehead (1st round by Vancouver) and John Doherty (2nd round by Toronto) drafted in recent years, says the scouts that see Kreider can tell he's got hockey talent. What they want to know from his coach are about his intangibles as a person.
"The first thing I always stress is Chris' character," said Boylan. "It's clear he's a terrific player, but it's important they know what a good person he is, too. He's such a great kid off the ice. For the type of dollars NHL teams throw around (to top prospects at the pro level), character I'm sure plays a big part in who teams select. If that's the case, Chris will be all set."
Kreider is almost unfailingly polite; he credits much of his success to his coaches and teammates (including those at Masconomet, where he played two years and still gets to as many of their games as he can) as well as his family. He says he's fortunate that he's never played a high school game where he didn't have "spectacular linemates" helping him perform to the best of his ability.
He's also quick to point out that he's had a "blessed hockey career" and considers himself extremely fortunate to have all of this attention shone upon him. At the same time, Kreider is very aware of his own faults as a player and what he needs to do to reach that next level of stardom.
Right now, he's focused on "stopping" on the puck a little more; not curling off the puck so much as being tenacious and getting after it, even if that means breaking his skating stride.
"It's a bad habit," Kreider confessed of his curling. "I want to maintain my speed, but I also want to win pucks and battles by stopping and starting. I really saw that watching the World Juniors; those guys stop on the puck all the time."
Those words don't surprise Boylan at all. His star player is constantly asking questions about how he can improve, do things better, make himself a more complete talent and contributor to the team.
"I'm sure everyone looks at Chris and sees all the goals right away," Boylan said, "but the people that evaluate him look beyond that, look at the great work he does in all three zones. Chris pays attention to the little details and is consistently playing the best shifts he can."
Named to the All-Tournament team of the prestigious Flood-Marr Tournament last month, Kreider is hoping to guide the Big Blue into the Division 1 prep school playoffs and bring a title home to Andover.
"We have so many great players on this team; I'm just a small part of it," he said. "If we can get off to some better starts and work on our transition game, I think we could be a really, really good team in the long run.
"As far as all of that other stuff .. to be honest, I don't think it's hit me yet. I was pumped just to be going to Boston College; I never dreamed that would happen when I began playing high school hockey. I just wanted a fun four years playing with my buddies. Maybe it'll hit me one of those days, but for now I'm still just having fun with my friends."