Derek Stepan 2

Stepan Up

The Rangers today made what will possibly be their last two roster moves prior to the start of the season. By sending Pavel Valentenko and Ryan McDonagh down to Hartford, they effectively have got down to the 23 man roster for opening night.

That means good news for today’s Rangers Countdown Profile subject. With the last reassignments made, along with the pending assignments to Injury Reserve for Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal, there’s enough room to maintain Derek Stepan on the roster.

Player Profile
Drafted 51st overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Stepan’s career has been one of building success. After a freshman season with the University of Wisconsin that saw him put up 33 points in 40 games, Stepan went on to lead the Badgers with 54 last year in just 41 games.

He also was selected to represent, and captain the US Under-20 World Junior Gold Medal winning team, where he again lead the competition with 14 points in just 10 games, as the Americans upset Canada to take home the honors.

His success in college and on the world stage was more enough evidence for the Rangers, who signed him to a three year entry level contract after just two seasons in college.

A strong performance in the Traverse City Prospects tournament where he caught the eyes of several observers, including perhaps most importantly Head Coach John Tortorella, put him in good stead going into camp.

Since then Tortorella has had little but good things to say about the 20 year old Minnesota native, and using him to center the top line of Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov right from the start.

And it would seem, that if it was wholly up to Tortorella the rookie would be in the line-up from day one. But hockey is a business, and there are more player assets on the roster than anyone knows what to do with, and as we have come to learn, Glen Sather has generally been loathe to dispose of an asset without getting at least something back.

Fortunately for Stepan, a couple of injuries to veterans have allowed the decision to be delayed, giving him further opportunity to solidify his position in the line-up.

Whether he’ll be able to do that in the face of the return of Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal remains to be seen, but for the moment there’s a window of opportunity, as well as a desperate need for a first line center.

If the Rangers do elect to send Stepan down eventually, he looks all but certain of being a first call-up the minute that the team’s offense falters or injuries start to take their toll.

2009-10 Statistics
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 12 goals, 42 assists and 8 penalty minutes in 42 games

Prediction
Team: Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL)
Stats: 6 goals, 14 assists and 4 penalty minutes in 22 games

Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 8 goals, 22 assists and 6 penalty minutes in 52 games

Trivia
Stepan is a graduate from the Shattuck-Saint Mary’s High School program in Minnesota, which has also produced the likes of Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews.

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