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Prized prospect Kreider could join Rangers this season


Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that Chris Kreider — the Rangers’ 2009 first-round pick that played for Team USA at the 2011 World Men’s Hockey Championships — could be making his NHL debut this season.

Brooks spoke with Rangers GM Glen Sather following the NHL trade deadline, during which Sather alluded to adding “people who are probably going to turn pro at the end of the school year” to the roster.

That seemed specifically directed at Kreider, who is in his junior year at Boston College (and, it must be mentioned, was one of the prospects Sather reportedly refused to part with during negotiations for Columbus’ Rick Nash.)

More, from The Post:

“Absolutely,” [Sather] said, when asked if he expects the 6-foot-3, 225-winger who presents an uncommon blend of size, speed, power and touch, to leave Boston College at the end of the season.

“Absolutely,” Sather repeated, when asked if he intends/expects to sign Kreider in time for him to play this season.

If the Rangers do sign the 20-year-old, the first year of Kreider’s three-year Entry Level contract would be burned regardless of whether he plays a single game for the Rangers or even is placed on the NHL roster.

That is not a deterrent for Sather. It could, however, be additional incentive for Kreider, who has taken an accelerated course load and who is dedicated to getting a degree, to leave school before graduating. The next collective bargaining agreement is certain to feature a more restrictive Entry Level system.

The possibility of bringing Kreider aboard is a big, somewhat unprecedented move as few players have made the leap from college hockey to the NHL in the same season. Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson pulled the trick in 2007 after his University of Michigan team was eliminated from western regionals, but he joined a pitiful Kings team (third-worst in the NHL) and only played five games.

Kreider’s situation would be far different.

If he goes directly to the NHL, Kreider would essentially join the Rangers on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Boston College is ranked No. 1 in the country and has a good shot of making the Frozen Four, which will be played Apr. 5-7 — the same weekend the NHL regular season ends.

That said, Kreider is unique in that he has experience playing with professionals. He notched three points in seven games at the 2011 WHC playing on a U.S. team featuring Paul Gaustad, Mike Komisarek, Blake Wheeler, James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler and Rangers teammates Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”