Kreider faces "tough" transition

April, 10, 2012
4/10/12
1:18
PM ET
As reported earlier Tuesday, discussions are ongoing between the Rangers and top prospect Chris Kreider. Should the 20-year-old center forego his senior season at Boston College and sign with the club, he would be eligible to play for the Rangers in the playoffs.

Even so, the chasm between the collegiate hockey level and the NHL is significant. Skepticism remains about whether the former first-round pirck could contribute as part of an Eastern Conference-leading squad entering the first round of the playoffs.

And while the Rangers have received stellar seasons from former collegiate players who have made the college-to-pro jump successfully -- Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin -- all three had more time to acclimate to the dizzying difference in expectations and play.

"I had more time to think about it over the summer and prepare myself the best I could, but it's definitely a big jump," said Stepan, a second-year center who left the University of Wisconsin after two seasons.

Stepan enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign -- he recorded a hat trick in his NHL debut -- but even in his second year pro, the 21-year-old pivot has battled peaks and valleys throughout the grind of an 82-game season.

And while Stepan cracked the roster after his first training camp, Hagelin didn't follow the same trajectory. Following four seasons at the University of Michigan, the speedy Swedish winger was highlighted as a youngster to watch in September. The coaching staff saw promise, but wasn't convinced he belonged with the big club right away.

Instead he headed to the AHL for 17 games until his recall Thanksgiving Day. The 23-year-old has flourished ever since, earning a spot on the team's top line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik and an important role one the team's penalty kill.

"It was a tough transition, for sure," said Hagelin. "I was happy I was able to go through the Traverse City rookie camp, get a taste of it and get a couple of preseason games in, but obviously I wasn't ready. It was good to go down in the [AHL] and realize that the game is much more patient than in college."

"You've got to be smarter up here, that's for sure," he said.

Kreider faces a big decision soon. Regardless of when he turns professional -- whether it be today or next year following the completion of his fourth and final season at BC -- he is headed for a major adjustment.

Said Stepan:

"Anytime you're going to do it, it's going to be difficult."



Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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