Currently my third favorite Ranger, behind Lundqvist and Avery, I believe that rookie center Derek Stepan is going to play a huge role in the future of the Rangers. Currently (well, as of Sunday night’s game against Washington) manning the top line with Fedetenko and Gaborik, Tortorella and the Rangers brass seems to agree. At just 20 years of age in his first season in the NHL Derek Stepan has been asked to center the top line, man the point on the power play, and play some time on the PK as well. He’s doing it all for the Rangers, and as a proven winner (continued below) Derek Stepan is shaping up to have quite a career in the NHL.
Weight: 182 lbs
Drafted: 2nd round (51st overall) in 2008 by the New York Rangers
NHL Experience: Rookie
Before the NHL:
Before making the jump to Wisconsin to play college hockey, Derek Stepan – the Minnesota native – attended Shattuck St. Mary’s high school in Minnesota, one of the most heralded high school hockey programs in the United States. It’s alumni include, Kyle Okposo, Zach Parise, Jon Toews, Drew Stafford, Ryan Malone, Jack Johnson, and some kid named Sidney Crosby. Stepan was a standout at Shattuck producing 74 goals and 85 assists in his two seasons there. He was drafted by the Rangers at the conclusion of his senior year and he decided to go the college route and play for the Badgers. Stepan played for two seasons at Wisconsin where he was a team leader along with fellow Rangers prospect Ryan McDonagh. His career saw him total 87 points in 81 games at Wisconsin before making the jump to the professional ranks this season.
You may find yourself thinking, the kids only 20 years old, there’s no way he’s made an impact on the United States at the international level. Think again. Last year during the World Junior Classics Derek Stepan was named team captain of the US and he backed up that honor by being the most productive player in the tournament. With 5 goals and 10 assists in only 7 games Stepan was able to lead the WJC in points, all while captaining team USA to a gold medal in one of the best hockey games I’ve ever watched. In my opinion, Stepan was absolutely robbed of tournament MVP last year. Check out these game highlights:
Like I said in the introduction, at only 20 years of age Stepan has gained quite a bit of success at the NHL level. Beating out veteran Eric Christensen for the top line job Stepan has been able to play almost 20 minutes a night when he’s situated on that line alongside Marian Gaborik. For his time so far in the NHL, Stepan has been able to record 7 goals and 10 assists just 32 games into his NHL career. This includes him being one of only four NHL players ever to record a hat-trick in his first career NHL game (something I was able to see in person). Not a bad way to kick off your NHL career putting up a hat-trick against last years Vezina trophy winner. Stepans 17 points have him sitting at 5th on the Rangers in total points as well as fourth among rookies in points.
Outlook 2010-2011 and Beyond:
There is absolutely nothing holding Derek Stepan back from becoming one of the top 10 or 15 centers in the NHL. The 20 year old has been extremely successful everywhere he has played. A gold Medal for the US at the WJC, a runner up finish to Chris Kreider’s BC Eagles last season, and now he’s won the spot of top line center for the Rangers. If Stepan continues to see minutes alongside Gaborik as well as on the power play his point totals this year should sky rocket giving the rookie an insane boost of confidence to begin his NHL career.
Stepan has been a leader every where he’s played. He’s led by example on the ice as well as off it. Everything you hear about him seems to be good. Tortorella has already compared him to Brad Richards, and has said multiple times that he is the best play-maker that the Rangers have on their roster currently. Big words from the coach for a 20 year old.
Fact of the matter is that some rookies tend to fade away after a strong rookie season, but you can tell by his demeanor and the way he plays on the ice that this will not be the case for Stepan. It’s a special thing when a coach can show so much confidence in a young rookie. To the point where now that Drury is returning to the lineup (player profile on him next week) Tortorella has confirmed multiple times that it will not be a “kid” leaving the lineup to make room for him.
In a nutshell, Derek Stepan is here to stay.
About the Author
Written by Adam Gavriel