New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider will have to wait until tomorrow for another chance to become the first person since 1987 to play in the National Hockey League playoffs in the same year that he won a national college championship.
Five days ago the 20-year-old Kreider won the National Collegiate Athletic Association title with Boston College. The last person to claim that title and then play in the NHL postseason was Tony Hrkac, who won the college championship with the University of North Dakota 25 years ago before playing for the St. Louis Blues in the NHL playoffs, the league said.
Kreider wasn’t included in the Rangers lineup for last night’s 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden against the Ottawa Senators. The best-of-seven first-round series resumes with Game 2 in New York tomorrow.
The Eagles’ leading scorer this year, Kreider was drafted by the Rangers in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, signed with the team on April 10 and participated in his first NHL practice two days ago.
“I haven’t had a chance to pinch myself, let alone absorb it all,” he told reporters after skating with the team. “It was kind of surreal. One minute I was in school, the next minute I’m in a car on my way down here.”
NCAA Title Game
Boston College defeated Ferris State University 4-1 in Tampa, Florida, on April 7 for its fifth national title and third in five seasons. Kreider had three goals and an assist in four NCAA tournament games this season, and finished his junior year as the team leader in goals (23), points (45) and penalty minutes (66).
Kreider said he celebrated his second championship in three years with teammates and friends for one day before beginning to think about joining the Rangers. He discussed the decision with his parents and made sure that leaving school wouldn’t jeopardize his ability to graduate.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround,” Kreider said. “No expectations coming in, just trying to be a sponge and learn from everyone.”
The Rangers finished the regular season with 109 points, the most in the Eastern Conference, but lost three of their four games against the Senators. New York is the conference’s top seed for the first time since 1994, when it last won the Stanley Cup.
Jeff Farkas, who lost the NCAA title game with Boston College in 2000 and then joined the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the only other player to participate in college hockey’s final game and the NHL playoffs in the same year, according to the league. Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers is among those who have played in the NCAA and the NHL in the same season.
“There’s definitely a noticeable difference between the speed in practice here and the speed in practice in college,” Kreider said. “The guys are obviously a lot bigger, too, and the intensity is definitely ramped up a bit.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella declined after Kreider’s first practice to say when he might make his debut.
“This is a young man that we feel has a great future,” Tortorella said. “We’re happy he’s here and he’s a Ranger. From there, we go day by day.”
A native of Boxford, Massachusetts, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Kreider said he has spoken briefly with teammates about what to expect in his first NHL game.
“I have an up-tempo, energetic game,” Kreider said. “I like to try to keep my feet moving and I’m a pretty big body, so I’ll try to wreak as much havoc as I possibly can if I do get to play.”