Habs Top 25 Under 25: #7 Danny Kristo

After a "frost bitten" sophomore season, Danny Kristo still holds the No. 7 spot in our Top 25 Under 25 for 2011. (Photo: Richard Wolowicz - Getty Images)

It's been three years since Danny Kristo was selected 56th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but he still remains in the Top 10 in our Under 25 countdown.

After a successful 2009-10 rookie season with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, highlighted by an NCAA championship, WCHA Rookie of the Year honors and a 2010 World Junior Gold Medal, his sophomore season was a bit of a roller coaster.

He was suspended for a pre-season game, for violating team policy, and it wasn't until mid-November that he recorded his first goal. Kristo then picked up his game, registering 5 goals and 17 assists in 29 games (17 points in his last dozen), before a frost-bitten foot shut him down.

He returned to record 7 points in 6 games, and was an integral part in North Dakota's semi final berth in the Frozen Four. "I was feeling some pressure from (winning) the rookie of the year, but I was averaging about two points a game from December on," said Kristo leading up to the NCAA championship. "Now, I’m focused on getting in better shape and helping the team win a national championship."

"At one point I felt he was having an abysmal season," said Lions In Winter's Chris Topham. "But he wrapped it up with decent totals. He plays in the top division of the NCAA, and he's proving to be a big prospect."

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Strengths: Kristo is an exceptionally fast skater, which gives him a decisive edge in a bid for a Top-six spot. "The 'New NHL' has proven to be one where speed is lethal," noted voting panelist Robert Rice. "Kristo has speed to burn, with the ability to execute his play while moving at top speed."

Kristo also possesses an exceptional offensive skill set and a shot that is very effective in close.

"Kristo is intriguing. He has good vision, makes crisp passes and has a decent shot," The Montreal Gazette's Pat Hickey told EOTP. "I saw him play in the WCHA finals, his first games back after his midnight walk, and he seemed to relish being in the spotlight and came up with a couple of goals. The next year will be very important for him and he'll need a better start than he had last year."

Weaknesses: Many feel Kritso's size is holding him back, and that he needs to bulk up to win battles on the boards and in front of the net. He is best to stick to his simplified game. When he tries to go outside of his abilities, and not stick to the core aspects, he tends to make mistakes.

His defensive game will need work to reach the NHL, but he did have a large improvement in his two-way play in 2011-12.

Kristo's recent off-ice incidents have cast a shadow in the minds of a small minority (present company not included) in terms of his maturity. UND has stated that his frost bitten foot was not a result of any team violations, merely an inappropriate choice of footwear (tennis shoes) on a visit to his girlfriend, but his earlier suspension drew accusations of under-aged drinking. Yes he's only 21, but are the Habs waiting to let him mature another year, rather than bring up another "party-boy circa 2008-09" player?

Analysis: Kristo has all the makings of a top-six forward, and is aware of what he needs to do to get to that goal and patiently work at it. During the Canadiens development camp this June, Kristo noted that he didn't want to rush to the pro level as Max Pacioretty and Ryan O`Byrne did, and would rather focus on improving his game and take it from there. He has been consistent in that sentiment since the time he was drafted and subsequent contract talks saying, "I’ve been in contract with the Canadiens, but I think it will be a while before you see me in a Habs uniform."

"Yes, they have and I think they do a great job of it. But they're also great about giving me my space too. They understand how important moments like the Frozen Four are to college players like me, so they talk to me only when they have to. They've been out here (North Dakota) to watch me play and will recommend some things for me to work on, but other than that, they just leave me alone. They're really good about that and are a class organization too." - Danny Kristo when asked by HockeysFuture on the Habs monitoring his development

He remains a solid blue chip prospect, and was ranked as the Habs top NCAA prospect with a decent to very good shot at making the NHL, but whether or not it will be with the Canadiens remains to be seen. Kristo could become a free agent if not signed by the Habs this spring.

A video Q&A with Kristo from Hockeybuzz.com If you pay attention to it, you will realize why he has been spotted wearing Edmonton Oilers gear.

#8:  Yannick Weber #7:  Danny Kristo #7: ???
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