We all know that the New York Rangers keep one eye on their roster and their other eye on the salary cap. Who knew that they had to monitor the number of NHL familial relations they have in their organization. After all, after drafting Adam Tambellini (whose father and brother were ex-NHLers) why else would they trade Christian Thomas to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Danny Kristo?

Online some fans have bemoaned the fact that the Rangers gave up on Thomas too soon. I don’t think that really is the case. While Thomas does have more professional experience (78 games – 73 last season) than Kristo (nine games last season), the newest Ranger might be more NHL ready and is certainly far superior a skater.

Here is what Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus wrote in reviewing the trade.

Kristo, who just turned 23, is arguably NHL ready or somewhat close to making the jump. He becomes one of the Rangers top prospects and could be a decent addition soon for a power play that hasn’t been the best.

There had been indications that Montreal wasn’t really high on Kristo be it for talent or character issues. An example of the latter was when their GM Marc Bergevin questioned Kristo’s off-ice decisions.

On pure talent Kristo is a better prospect than Christian Thomas. That’s not to say Thomas is a poor prospect as he has character, offensive ability and he could be an average to above-average pro. However Kristo is arguably a top 100 drafted prospect in hockey with significant upside even if he does carry more risk than Thomas. In a one for one deal, it’s hard to make a perfectly equal trade and one team usually comes out ahead. In my opinion it was the Rangers.

In the interest of equal and balanced reporting, Marc Antoine Godin (the Canadiens beat reporter with Montreal’s La Presse), on September 19, 2012, tweeted the following missive from Habs GM Marc Bergevin: “Marc Bergevin on Danny Kristo: You can’t always blame immaturity. If he wants to have an NHL career he’ll need to make the right decisions.”

While some might be wondering why the big deal about being NHL-ready now, remember that the Blueshirts do not know when Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin will be able to return to action following their off-season shoulder surgeries.

The Canadiens Blog Eyes on the Prize wrote, “Kristo is one of the fastest skaters in the organization, possibly even the fastest, and gives the Canadiens even more depth at forward. The right winger can make plays at top speed, which instantly puts him at the top of the Bulldogs call up list if a skilled forward is injured.”

While neither Kristo (6-foot-0 and 190 pounds – according to the team’s official press release) nor Thomas (5-foot-9 and 162 pounds) are going to make anyone forget Zdeno Chara, the Rangers do add a bit of size while increasing team speed. After all, if you are not going to be a power forward, you better a quick forward.

Besides with forwards like Ryan Bourque (5-foot-9) and Mats Zuccarello (5-foot-7), every inch counts.

Kristo was Montreal’s 2nd round draft pick (#56) in the 2008 NHL Draft – the same Draft that saw the Rangers select Derek Stepan with the 51st pick. In their 2013 Future Watch issue, The Hockey News rated Kristo the Habs’ 10th best prospect and wrote that he is a “speedy winger has quick hands, good scoring ability, But has to improve maturity and work ethic.”

Hockey’s Future web site wrote, “At times, Kristo lacks the consistency and the work ethic needed to play at the NHL level but definitely not the skills. He has quick acceleration, a powerful stride and uses his explosive speed to help make space for him offensively. The talented winger is equally fast with or without the puck and has developed the ability to shoot the puck while in full stride toward the net with a quick, accurate release.”

Montreal signed the 23-year-old Kristo to a two-year deal (which expires after the 2013-2014 season) on Trade Deadline Day (April 3, 2013) after he finished his four years of college eligibility at the University of North Dakota. In 40 games at North Dakota, Kristo scored 26 goals and 26 assists and was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Kristo finished his four years in college as a point per game producer, tallying 68 goals and 93 assists in 157 games.

Danny was twice a double award winner during his collegiate career. In the 2009-2010 season, Kristo was named the WCHA’s Rookie of the Year and, of course, was a member of the WCHA All-Rookie Team. In 2012-2013, he earned WCHA First All-Star honors and was named to the NCAA’s West First All-Star team.

The Eden Prairie, MN native played for Team USA at the 2013 World Cup and scored one goal and two assists in 10 games. He is no strangers to representing the red, white and blue – as he has done so numerous times. In 2010 he teamed up with future Ranger mates Ryan Bourque, Chris Kreider and Stepan to help lead the USA to the Gold Medal in the 2010 World Junior Championships – scoring five goals and three assists in seven games.

In 2008, the International Scouting Service rated the forward as their 56th best prospect in the 2008 NHL Draft. Their scouting report said, “Kristo was very impressive throughout the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships in Kazan, Russia. He is a great offensive zone player. He can really make things happen offensively. He is fearless on the forecheck and has great shooting instincts. He is always in the play and does not give up on puck battles. His speed is adequate but could be better, some development is needed.”

ISS rated his Skating and Puckhandling as “Very Good” and his Shot/Scoring and Hockey Sense as “Excellent”.

NHL’s Central Scouting rated him as their 37th best North American skater. Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee offered up this report on Kristo: “Danny is a strong kid, but not a very big, physical kid. He has very quick feet and he’s very smart. He’s clever with the puck, he can set people up and he can finish. Sometimes he can take himself away from his best assets – thinking and skating and using his hands, and he tries to knock big guys down and he physically can’t, but he’s got that bite to his game. He has a real top-end level offensively, he could be a top-two line guy in the NHL someday and he’s going to play and be successful.”

Even Kristo offered up a scouting report on himself.

“I would describe my game as an up-tempo, speed game. I think my strengths as a player are my speed, hands and vision. I would like to improve on playing more consistent and improving in the weight room,” Kristo explained as part of his Central Scouting profile.

While the Rangers lose the son of former NHL forward Steve Thomas, Kristo does have a connection to a former NHL draft pick. His minor hockey coach with the Indianapolis Checkers of the Eden Prairie Hockey Association was Monty Trottier (the Islanders 4th round draft pick (#68) in the 1980 Draft) the non-NHL playing middle brother between Bryan and Rocky.

Kristo’s father, Mark, played for Bemidji State (1972-76) and was selected as one of the university’s 50 greatest players in 2006.

The key to Kristo’s success will be his ability to translate his skating advantage from the bigger collegiate rinks to the more confined NHL rinks. The key to that translation will have to be the first step or two he takes. As you have read, he has the potential explosiveness to beat his defenders to the outside. It is a matter of him harnessing his ability and his hockey sense as he evolves from a collegiate player into an NHL player.

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