Kreider question looms as Frozen Four begins

As the playoffs approach, an important personnel question looms for the Rangers:

Will top prospect Chris Kreider leave school and turn pro? If so, can he be expected to make an impact for the Rangers in the 2012 playoffs?

The 21-year-old center has a tough decision to make, and soon. His Boston College Eagles take on the Minnesota Gophers Thursday as the NCAA Frozen Four kicks off in Tampa but, regardless of tonight's outcome, Kreider's season will be over this weekend. From there, he'll have to weigh whether to return to BC or forego his senior season to sign with the Eastern Conference champion Blueshirts.

If he chooses the latter, Rangers Assistant General manager Jeff Gorton is on hand in Tampa to facilitate. And as first reported by the New York Post, Kreider would be eligible to compete for the Rangers in the playoffs should he decide to turn pro, a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com. What remains to be seen is whether he can make the transition from collegiate hockey to the NHL at the height of it's intensity.

John Tortorella is a demanding coach that requires impeccable conditioning from his players -- both physical and mental -- and doesn't baby-sit those who fall behind.

Kreider is regarded within the organization as an absolute "can't miss" prospect with size and speed, but has not played against top-tier talent. However, the team does not have a ton of depth of front.

The 6-2, 205-pound Kreider, who leads his team with 22 goals and 21 assists in 42 games played, may give the Rangers another offensive weapon if he can prove he can play.

For more on Kreider's big decision, read ESPN Insider's recent story here