Rangers draft speedster Kreider

The New York Rangers, hoping to add size, speed and a deft scoring touch to their prospect pool, selected US high school forward Chris Kreider with the 19th pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. Kreider, 18, is the highest-ranked high school player in the country, and has committed to play for Boston College in the fall.

The 6-2, 205-pound speedster led Phillips Andover of the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association (HS-MA) with 33 goals and 56 points in 26 games this season. With any luck, the forward should be expected to be ready for the NHL sometime in the next two seasons.

Kreider’s selection benefited from a strong performance in the annual draft combine, where scouts rate players on a 1-10 scale in various categories. Kreider finished tops in skating with a 9.81 average.

“He’s the fastest kid in the draft, and that’s the first thing that stands out about him,” said Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark, who calls the shots for the Blueshirts on draft day. “He just dominated with his speed. He gets so many breakaways because he is so bloody fast. He’s got that (Alexander) Mogilny-type speed.”

The real question mark about Kreider is whether he will continue in his development and be able to dominate games in the college ranks, as the level of competition in prep school circuit is relatively lower than that of Junior A.

“He’s an elite athlete, physically and mentally,” Clark said. “He’s ripped. He blew through the combine in Toronto and he still has room to grow. He’ll get thicker.”

There was some speculation that the Rangers would take Jordan Schroeder, as the small right wing was ranked 12th by International Scouting Services but was still available when the Rangers were on the clock.

And when the rival New Jersey Devils traded up to pick 20th overall, there was a fear of a repeat of the 2003 draft, when the Rangers passed on Zach Parise, who fell into New Jersey’s lap at 17th overall. The Rangers’ pick, Hugh Jessiman, is no longer with the organization. But the Devils passed on Schroeder too, who eventually fell to the 22nd pick by the Vancouver Canucks.

Rangers fans should take note: Lou Lamoriello’s scouting staff, led by David Conte, has had a far better track record in the draft in recent years when compared to the Rangers. If Lamoriello and Conte passed on Schroeder as well, then it’s plausible there was something that caught the attention of both teams that would be a detractor in selecting Schroeder.

Regardless, the selection of Kreider should be seen as a solid pick, and one that will fit comfortably with the direction the Rangers are moving in under head coach John Tortorella.

“I’m a speedy left-winger, and I like to lower my shoulder and get to the net and create opportunities for myself and also for my teammates,” Kreider said. “I also think I am coachable and bring a lot of intensity and consistency. But there is stuff I’ve been able to get away with in Prep that I won’t be able to get away with in college, so it’ll just help me develop as a player.”

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