by Patrick Hoffman on 09/10/12 at 07:00 AM ET
When it comes to the New York Rangers, a lot has been said about the talented youth they now have both on Broadway and in Connecticut.
One such talented youngster, Derek Stepan, will be entering his third season as an NHLer, and will be looking to continue becoming an even better hockey player than he is now. With 45 (21 goals and 24 assists) and 51 (17 goals and 34 assists) points in his first two seasons, the ceiling has yet to be reached for the 22-year-old Stepan.
There is no doubt that Stepan is a gifted hockey player. Stepan has soft hands, an eye for the net, the ability to make passes and create plays as well as the ability to play well on both sides of the puck.
His abilities were on full display in his first game in the NHL. That night against the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo, Stepan scored a hat trick while showing the team and its fan that he could be a shining star on Broadway.
Stepan finished his rookie season with 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points while playing in all 82 games in the regular season. In the playoffs, however, Stepan failed to score a point in a five game series loss to the Washington Capitals.
This past season, Stepan once again that he can be more than a solid offensive player for the Blueshirts. Stepan picked up 17 goals and added 34 assists for 51 points in playing all 82 games for the second straight season.
In last year's postseason, Stepan played much better. Stepan had 1 goal and 8 assist for 9 points and also took 38 shots in 20 games.
While Stepan's accomplishments in his first two seasons certainly did not go unnoticed, there is the feeling that Stepan can do even more than he is doing right now. Early in the postseason, Stepan was struggling until Game 6 and 7 against the Ottawa Senators in the first round, which is when he started to produce and step up.
Below is what team head coach John Tortorella, team captain Ryan Callahan, and defenseman Marc Staal said about the team's youngster during the postseason:
John Tortorella spoke about the way Stepan stepped up his game through sheer mental strength.
“It took him a little while but he’s played three big games here now. For us to have a chance, we needed someone to get going. It was weighing on him, but he just found a way. I really feel he willed himself into getting his game going,” Tortorella explained during his post-game press conference.
Callahan believed that Stepan was able to settle down as the series progressed.
“Last couple of games here, he’s been playing great. For him, it’s only his second playoff experience. He’s obviously got a little bit of nerves going into it. I think he settled down and was a key part of these last two games,” Callahan stated.
“He’s played great. Obviously watching him the last couple of years (we know) what he can do with the puck and the plays he makes. He’s had a huge couple games for us,” Staal added.
At just 22 years of age, Stepan's NHL career has really only just begun and judging by his first two seasons on Broadway, the potential for greater things is bright not only for Stepan, but for the whole Blueshirts' organization.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.