The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with top prospect Chris Kreider on a three-year entry-level deal.
The 20-year-old center will forego his senior season at Boston College to turn pro and join New York in advance of the team's first-round playoff series with the Ottawa Senators. He is expected to join the team for practice on Wednesday, thus burning the first year on his contract.
Whether he plays for the Rangers when they face the Senators in the Eastern Conference semifinals remains to be seen.
"I think he can help. He's got NHL speed and NHL-level puck-pursuit ability and he gives you another dimension with that speed that pushes opponents beyond their comfort level," said one former NHL scout, who has watched Kreider throughout his career at Boston College.
"He hasn't played an NHL game, but he's a quick learner and it's another asset and weapon that the coaching staff can use," the scout continued. "He might help the team out in one game and that could put them over the hump in the series. I'd certainly like him in my arsenal."
Kreider helped lead Boston College to a national championship title with a win over Ferris State University in Saturday's Frozen Four championship in Tampa on Saturday.
The Boxford, Mass., native, a Rangers first-round pick in 2009 (19th overall), led BC with 23 goals and 22 assists in 44 games played this season.
The Rangers have received stellar seasons from former collegiate players who have made the college-to-pro jump successfully, including Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin. But those three all 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. "... Anytime you're going to do it, it's going to be difficult."
Hagelin has flourished since he headed to the AHL for 17 games until his recall Thanksgiving Day, earning a spot on the team's top line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik and an important role on the team's penalty kill.
"It was a tough transition, for sure," Hagelin said. "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.