New York Rangers: Predicting who will replace Derek Stepan

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New York Rangers
Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports /

Garrett Gartino-

As the New York Rangers look ahead to their 2017-18 season, they will be without a true first line center. Derek Stepan, one of the team’s alternate captains, is departed to Arizona to begin a new chapter of his career.

Luckily, GM Jeff Gorton has a built in plan B in budding star Mika Zibanejad. The dynamic, Sweden native is still just 24 years old with plenty of growth left to prove. In an injury shortened 2016-17 season, Zibanejad produced 14 goals and 23 assists in 56 games played.

There will be a learning curved for Zibanejad, who will be asked to play the toughest defensive minutes of his young career. However, with an increase in responsibility should come an increase in pride in his role.

Fans should expect big things from Zibanejad atop the Rangers’ center depth chart. His presence there will only help the team’s core unit flourish for years to come.