Not to overshadow the magnitude of HUGE playoff implications for tonight’s game between the Rangers and Sabres, but Derek Stepan has a sort of homecoming to look forward to. Is he from Buffalo? No. Play his collegiate hockey there? Not even close. Family lives there? Possibly. Buffalo is home to the arena where Derek Stepan made his impact in the NHL known, scoring a hat trick in his 1st NHL game. That night, Stepan became the 4th player in NHL history to record a hat trick in his first ever game and the memories will stick with him for the rest of his life.
Derek Stepan has enjoyed a very solid rookie season with the Rangers. Aside from the Opening Night goal barrage, he’s played in every game the Blueshirts have played, is 1 of the 5 players with 20 goals on the season (1st rookie since Petr Prucha scored 30 in 05-06), and played in the 2011 All-Star Skills Competition. Factor in how John Tortorella has trusted the 20-year-old all season long sporadically playing with sniper Marian Gaborik and at times on the point on the power play and Rangers’ fans have a player they can watch blossom for years to come.
With 6 games to go and intensity heating up to a boiling point in most games, Stepan is being asked to fit the bill. Coach Tortorella has indicated Stepan will be with Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik for tonight’s game. It’s a move that could prove beneficial. Out of all the centers the Rangers’ possess, Stepan is the one whose offensive ceiling is highest. He plays well down low, has good vision on the ice, is good around the net, and makes some very good, sneaky passes. Plus, Stepan has had chemistry with Gaborik in his previous stints.
However far the New York Rangers go this season whether its somehow out of the playoffs to a miraculous cup run, fans are excited they have an up-and-coming, potential star in Derek Stepan.