Kyle Kraemer turned 26 last month, but had the same ups and downs of any rookie in his first pro season.
At times, his speed and offensive instincts made him a dangerous player. At other times, his hesitation without the puck made him a liability. Kraemer came back from a midseason knee injury that cost him 18 games to post some respectable numbers – 16 goals and 37 points in 54 games, along with 37 penalty minutes and a minus-8 rating.
Here’s what he had to say following his end-of-season interview:
How do you evaluate your season?
I think to me and for everybody it was a rollercoaster. Up and down. Good weeks, bad weeks. Good game, bad game. for me individually I think that I came on strong, got hurt, my knee, came back and struggled for a couple games, then did well for like 10 games, did bad for 10 games, then picked it up toward the end of the year. A big rollercoaster.
What allowed you to finish strong?
I was really relaxed, loose, having fun and taking chances when those chances needed to be taken. For example, I took a chance in the offensive zone, tried to score and just went in. when you do well, you feel confident. It’s kind of puck luck. I’m giving myself credit but obviously there’s luck.
Why didn’t you start as strong?
My first year pro, I think I was nervous. Just trying to find my way at the beginning. I’m older, played college for four years. It took me a little longer in college to find my way freshman year. I think I finally figured it out toward he end of the year. I guess that’s why they call you a rookie.
Where do you see yourself next season?
I’d like to come back here. I really enjoyed it here. I enjoyed coach, enjoyed the staff, the fans are great. … I have no issues with this place.
What makes you think that after missing the playoffs this season and last that the team could make it back?
Every year’s a new year. You don’t have the same team every year. You have your core guys come back and you build from there. I think we could be first place next year. Every year’s different. We’ve just got to work hard and put this season behind us. I can’t tell you right now that we’d make the playoffs, but that’s our goal.
What was the biggest eye-opener this season?
I didn’t expect getting hurt. I didn’t miss any games due to injury (in college). I guess my biggest thing was getting it coming into the games at this high level. It’s the East Coast (League) but it’s a really good league. I’m not trying to say I didn’t think it was a good league, but it surprised me.
I’m just going to go back home in a month and start training. I’m going to go back, save some money, live with my family a little bit. I haven’t seen them for a while. It’s time to go home.