While the young freshman is over in Europe racking up the assists and playing big minutes for Team USA, the rookie’s first year in Ranger blue continues to gather compliments. This week, Hockeysfuture wrote about their Calder nominations and spoke in some detail about their top 10. Derek Stepan came in 9th place in their top 10 while Mike Sauer got an honorable mention as well – nothing to sniff at. While 9th is not high enough to be a serious trophy candidate (in all fairness there was seriously stiff competition this year) it is high enough to be a legitimate compliment to the young American. HF said this about Stepan:
Finishing fifth among all rookies and fourth on his teams in scoring, perhaps the most remarkable fact is that Stepan played in all 82 games. The Rangers line-up was ripped apart by injuries through the year, forcing Stepan to continuously adapt to different line mates and responsibilities.
It is certainly an impressive feat for Stepan to have been such a constant in the Rangers line up this year and if anything this season has only added to fan’s excitement over the young Minnesotan’s future. Stepan is truly a key cog going forward for the Rangers. If he continues to develop as he has (and the Rangers do indeed grab a veteran elite center) then a Rangers’ issue – skill at center –becomes an absolute strength and that is not even factoring more development from the likes of the Anisimov’s, Boyle’s and some of the prospects. As important as a Brad Richards type of acquisition is, so much hinges on how Derek Stepan (and Anisimov to be fair…) develops. Fingers crossed.