62° Good Evening
62° Good Evening

Derek Stepan: 20 for 20

BOSTON---With players like the Sharks' Logan Couture and the Islanders' Michael Grabner scoring far more goals, center Derek Stepan won't win the
Calder Memorial Trophy as this season's top rookie.
But yesterday's game-winner, a first-period deflection past Tuukka Rask, was Stepan's 20th, and he became the youngest Blueshirt to hit that mark since Alex Kovalev scored 23 in the 1993-94 season.
"He's a competitive kid at heart," said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, another of the Rangers surprising freshman class, who played with Stepan at the University of Wisconsin. "And he wants more; it's not in a selfish aspect at all. He's one of the most team-oriented guys I ever played with. His competitive nature is what drives him, he's had big goals for us and put up points and has been a huge part of this team from the first game of the season, getting that hat trick against Buffalo. It's amazing. He's 20 years old and I can't say enough about him."
Stepan is the fifth Ranger---along with Ryan Callahan (23), Marian Gaborik (22), Brandon Dubinsky (22) and Brian Boyle (21)---to reach twenty, compared to only three players last season. Artem Anisimov has 18.
"He's taking the slow route," kidded Stepan, the Rangers 2nd-round pick in 2008 who left the Badgers after his sophomore season and a spectacular international tournament. "We're deep in scoring. Anytime you have four lines than can score goals, it takes the pressure off certain guys."
Stepan, a Hastings, Minnesota native, deals with the pressure pretty well, too. He was captain of the gold-medal winning U.S.
team in the IIHF World Championship, and led the tournament in scoring, with four goals and 10 assists in seven games.
Off the ice, Stepan is comfortable in the spotlight as well. He told reporters last week that he should win the annual "Good Guy" award for cooperation with the media, and deserved it more than another rookie, Norway-born Mats Zuccarello. When Zuccarello protested, he told him: "You have to be able to speak English." . One area where Stepan, who was inserted between Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal before today's game by coach John Tortorella, needs to improve is on faceoffs.
"He's been god-awful, and he was probably our best faceoff guy today," said Tortorella, after watching Stepan win 3 of 4. "A couple coaches went to him yesterday, because you almost have to try to be 2 and 11 as he was the prior game. But he won a big faceoff--- it's really a tie and then Vinny (Prospal) gets it back."
To his credit, Stepan, who has 41 points---understands that his faceoffs---and his goals---haven't all been pretty. "Hey, I didn't win it clean,” he said. “Vinny comes in and cleans it up, slides it back to Mike Sauer, and I'm looking at him, and my stick was in tight on me, but the puck hits the shaft and finds a way to get in the net. I kinda knew it was going to be that way."


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports