Two things really stand out about Derek Stepan this season; when he has a bad game or bad period it doesn’t linger and he comes straight back with an improved performance. That is evidence in itself that he is a quick learner which will stand him in good stead for his career. Secondly, this season Stepan’s game is really rounding out despite being on course for fewer goals than his rookie year.
During the Carolina win Thursday night, Stepan was credited with a game high four hits. He blocked two shots, had three of his own and of course grabbed two assists. There wasn’t much Stepan didn’t do against the Canes. It’s become a typical all-round performance from the still 21 year old American center.
Stepan is on course for a 50+ point season and his development this year has probably kept the criticism of Brad Richards’ production from being louder. It’s not often the coach leaves lines in tact but barring a mid season divorce, the ‘GAS’ line has remained a constant. A large part of that has to do with Stepan’s ability to mesh so well with Marian Gaborik.
You want consistency? Taking into account Stepan is a 21 year old sophomore he has only once gone longer than three games without a point this year and that was the very first four games of the season including the Sweden trip.
Stepan has already registered more hits, in twenty games less, than in his first year, equalled his powerplay production, is blocking more shots, and will likely take more shots in his second year as well. Overall, Stepan has shown tremendous signs of development including in his already quality decision making. Stepan is becoming an essential part of the Rangers and has cemented himself a place in the top six for the foreseeable future.
It doesn’t matter where the Rangers play, Stepan makes sure he contributes. 22 points on home ice, Stepan also has 19 away from the world’s most famous arena; evidence that he isn’t a home bird. Against possible playoff opponents such as the Devils, Flyers and Senators Stepan has produced against them all.
He hasn’t been perfect by any stretch, but Derek Stepan continues to show the kind of developmental trajectory that gets fans excited. A player blessed with intelligence, maturity and skill Stepan will be a quality Ranger for many years to come – exactly why Glen Sather refused to even consider parting with the Rangers’ very own McLovin.