Coming off a season in which Kruger had mid-season wrist surgery, signed a three-year extension for $3 million per year, played half of a season and only produced four assists, Kruger needs to step it up this season.
While Kruger is one of the few Blackhawks forwards who is more defense-minded, he needs to put the puck in the net. This is the terrible salary cap era of hockey, and if the front office is eating up a $3 million cap hit for you, you need to produce more.
His other stats from last year do not do him any good either. He only had 22 hits, a plus/minus of minus-5, a faceoff percentage of 49.2 and a possession percentage just below league average.
After Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov, the ‘Hawks do not have very good centers. They have some young guys, but they are not ready yet. Because of this, Kruger needs to be able to hold his own in the 2016-17 season.
If he is not able to do this then the ‘Hawks are going to be in a really bad spot. They’ll have to put way too much pressure on the rookies to fill the gap. This team is not ready for that yet, so the answer has to be Kruger.