Chris Kreider Selected No. 19 in 2009 NHL Entry Draft
Chris Kreider’s whirlwind year came to an exciting climax on Friday night when the former VJW standout was selected as the No. 19 pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers.
Kreider – according to the final Central Scouting Rankings – entered the 2009 NHL Entry Draft as the highest ranked high school player and the 14th overall among North American skaters.
The news was well received by many in the BayState. After all, the Boxford native has been a part of the Valley Jr Warriors program since he was a Mite player. Most recently, Kreider was an integral member of Ken Cleary’s VJW U-18 squad during the 2008-09 season.
"Chris has always been a great natural talent as a skater and a scorer," said Cleary who has coached Kreider for the past seven years. "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."
NHL scouts clearly recognized these characteristics as many teams were jockeying for position in hopes of drafting the 6’2”, 201 pound left winger who registered 56 points in 26 games for PhillipsAndoverAcademy last season.
Another group that is excited about Kreider and his selection by the New York Rangers is Jerry York and the Boston College Eagles program. Kreider is scheduled to join the Eagles this fall as an incoming freshman. He will join an impressive list of alumni.
To wit, Kreider is the 12th Eagle in the last 24 years – and ninth in the last 14 years – to have been selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. He joins 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame elect Brian Leetch (ninth, 1986), Craig Janney (13th, 1986), Bill Guerin (fifth, 1989), Marty Reasoner (14th, 1996), Brooks Orpik (18th, 2000), Krys Kolanos (19th, 2000), Chuck Kobasew (14th, 2001), Brian Boyle (26th, 2003), Patrick Eaves (29th, 2003), Cory Schneider (26th, 2004) and Nick Petrecki (28th, 2007) as Boston College first-round draftees.
“Seeing Chris drafted so high in the first round is a testament to his work ethic over the years and the commitment by both him and his family,” said Fred Devereaux, the VJW Director of Player Development who just returned home from Montreal where the 2009 NHL Entry Draft was held. “It also speaks to the level of talent that is coming out of the Massachusetts.”
Devereaux knows a little bit about talent. After all, the longtime VJW staff member currently serves as a scout for the Calgary Flames. Over the course of his 23-year NHL scouting career, he has also worked with the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators and has played a role in the development of several current NHL players.
“Chris has been an exemplary member of the VJW program and we are excited to see him develop even further at BostonCollege,” said Devereaux.
For those who are not familiar with Kreider and his many local accomplishments, here is an article that recently appeared in an issue of the Salem Evening News.
Kreider's Coronation: Boxford native, called the country's best high school hockey player, hopes to be chosen in the first round of Friday's NHL Draft in Montreal
By Phil Stacey Sports editor "Sometimes it's like watching Wayne Gretzky in a pickup game." "He's not just the best skater in the draft, but I'm not sure there are many guys in the NHL now who skate better than this guy. He gets out of the blocks as fast as anyone I've ever seen."
— Two scouts on Chris Kreider, as quoted in The Hockey News
BOXFORD — They sit at the top of the long, angular driveway, symbols of endless hours of practice in various athletic endeavors. There's a pitchback screen, a lacrosse net and a soccer goal nestled in the corner. There's also a well-worn hockey net, one that has been battered so much that the top crossbar is warped. One look and you'd think it was several years old, when in reality it's only been in use for 12 months.
"I can tell him where to shoot it," said Katie Kreider, a seventh grade whiz at soccer, basketball and softball, "and Chris will hit it exactly where I ask him to every time." Each blast that has left a reminder on that crossbar or one of the posts — not to mention the thousands he's driven into the twine of that same net — is another step in the ascension of Chris Kreider to becoming the best high school hockey player in America. Come Friday night at The Bell Centre in Montreal, the 18-year-old Kreider will likely hear his name called by some team in the first round of the National Hockey League's Entry Draft. In some ways it'll be a culmination of all the work he's put in to reach this dream; but as he's well aware by this point, it will also be the very beginning of the next — and most important — stage of his hockey development.
Many draft prognosticators have the 6-foot-2, 201-pound forward going among the draft's first 30 picks. The NHL's Central Scouting bureau listed him as the 14th best North American skater in its final rankings; The Sports Network in Canada ranks him 20th overall, and The Hockey News and International Scouting Services both have him pegged at No. 24.
Various Web publications have him being drafted by numerous teams; a Montreal Canadiens' fan website, www.habseyesontheprize.com, would love for their favorite team to grab Kreider with the 18th pick. Other mock drafts online have him going to the Calgary Flames at No. 20 overall, the Washington Capitals with the 27th pick, and even his hometown favorites, the Boston Bruins, at No. 25.
"It's all just projection; I try not to pay attention to that stuff," said Kreider. "To be drafted has always been a dream — who doesn't want to play professionally? But at the same time, I never thought this would occur."
"At this point, we're all really excited to se what happens next," added his mother, Kathy Kreider. "It's quite an experience. But we want to make sure his head is kept on straight, too. (All of the pre-draft speculation), it's just a pat on the back for what he's done so far."
A smile upon his face The rise of Kreider from public school player for Masconomet Regional to dominant prep school superstar for powerful PhillipsAndoverAcademy in just two short years is nothing short of remarkable. He has had an army of professional scouts — "the parade of black coats", said his father, Dave — watching since he repeated his sophomore year at Phillips, a throng that only grew with Kreider's skill and offensive numbers.
He's already big enough, body-wise, to play in the NHL. His combination of stick skills, anticipating the play and ability to dominate have made some of the best prep school players in the country look like rank amateurs. And his skating, so extraordinarily explosive and gracefully fluid with the long strides he first learned figure skating on a rink in Charlestown with his mother and aunt as a youngster make it seem as if there are wings on the sides of his skates.
Kreider was in Toronto last month with other top prospects for the NHL Draft Combine, a 48-hour whirlwind in which he was poked, prodded, examined and interviewed by 28 of the NHL's 30 clubs.
"I went in (to the interviews) just trying to be myself," said Kreider, who had 33 goals and 23 assists in 26 games as a junior at Phillips Andover last season. "You never really know what someone thinks of you; some teams I felt less confident (after interviewing with), but those are the teams that may have liked you better.
"And you do it all with a smile on your face; it's a little like the Miss America Pageant," he said with a chuckle.
He met and became friendly with several other players in Toronto, realizing they were feeling the same apprehensions and uncertainties that he was. He scored well in many of the physical tests that were administered to the players, and also threw up after 10 minutes of torture on a bike during what's called a V02 test (which is not uncommon, by the way; NHLers Phil Kessel and Jonathan Toews did the same thing in recent years during their bike tests).
And like any Greater Bostonian who grows up dreaming of playing in the bigs for the hometown team, he cherished his meeting with the Bruins' brass.
"It's so surreal that I almost burst out laughing. I mean, there's (Bruins Vice President) Cam Neely, right there in front of me asking questions! I think I sat there with my jaw open," said Kreider. "(Director of Hockey Operations and Player Development) Don Sweeney was there, too. But then you realize they're just regular people."
The eldest of Dave and Kathy Kreider's two children, Chris grew up in Charlestown before his family moved to Boxford. From a very young age, two things became very apparent.
"I used to throw baseballs to him when Chris was really young — 1 1/2, 2 years old — and he'd hit them," said his mother. "He always had a ball with him, and he was very high energy. He could climb over the child gates we put up so fast."
The love of athletic competition has never left Kreider, and that's not restricted to hockey. Soccer, football, baseball, lacrosse, tennis, golf, volleyball; you name it, and he's gone through a phase playing it.
"But those are just games. Hockey's a sport," Kreider said with a wide smile.
When he first began playing organized hockey, Kreider said he'd take the puck all the way behind his own goal — no matter where on the ice he started with — so he could pick up speed as he moved up ice. He went through the Masconomet Youth Hockey program, then started playing with the Valley Junior Warriors later on in grade school. Although he eventually chose to keep playing select hockey with the Warriors over town hockey, Kreider has remained friends with many of his former Masconomet teammates to this day, as evidenced by the rash of graduation parties he's attended in recent weeks.
When high school rolled around, the Kreiders considered St. John's Prep and Pingree before enrolling their son at Masconomet. He had a wonderful two seasons there, making the varsity as a freshman and earning Salem News Player of the Year honors as a sophomore, leading the area in goals and taking the Chieftains to the Division 2 North semifinals. He also grew six inches between his 9th and 10th grade seasons. After the season, they decided, as a family, to take another look at schools to better Chris both academically and hockey-wise. Phillips Andover entered the picture, and when he got in, the choice was easy for Kreider: he'd continue his schooling and repeat his sophomore year there. "His two years at Masconomet prepared him for Phillips Andover," said his father. "He wouldn't have been able to handle Phillips as a freshman; those Masco years did wonders."
Kreider, who is completing his studies at Masconomet this summer so he can graduate and head off to Boston College (where he's on a hockey scholarship) this fall, said the Andover experience has made him a better person.
"It's been life altering," he said. "Your entire perception changes in just two years. There are so many talented people from all over the world there; it makes you feel inadequate when all you can do is express yourself with a hockey stick."
His on-ice exploits, however, certainly impressed those who scout young hockey talent for a living.
With the family ready to head up to Montreal tomorrow, Kreider has done everything he can do to make an impression on those whose opinions count the most.
He's starred against older, strong competition at every turn by challenging himself whenever possible. He's remained humble even as his game has gone off the charts. And he's very much, in his own words, "just a regular kid" who gets along as well with his parents and his kid sister as he does with his best friends.
Kreider is also the first to admit he's gotten a lot of help along the way, particularly from the coaches who have helped shape him as a player: his youth coaches in the Masconomet system; Ken Cleary, Blair Heavey and all those involved with the Warriors; Bill Blackwell and his high school coaches at Masconomet; Mike Addesa of the Boston Junior Bulldogs, and certainly Dean Boylan and his staff at Phillips Andover. "They've all been wonderful and responsible for his development," Kathy Kreider noted.
So if it's Friday night that his name is called — or even Saturday, when rounds 2 through 7 will be held — Kreider will be ready.
"I've YouTubed a few of the past drafts, and there won't be any of those handshakes for me," said Kreider, mentioning the time-honored tradition of a drafted player meeting the brass of his new team on the podium for the first time. "I told my parents if I get drafted, I'm going up and giving everyone big hugs."