The 2014 Winter Olympics will be 23-year-old Derek Stepan‘s first, but he is no stranger to representing his country. The Minnesota native and current New York Ranger served as captain of Team USA at the 2010 World Junior Championship where they won Gold, and he was voted top USA player by the coaches during the 2011 World Championship.
Stepan was drafted by the Rangers in the second-round of the 2008 Entry Level Draft, No. 51 overall. He made his NHL debut with the team on Oct. 9, 2010, where he scored a hat-trick against the Buffalo Sabres. Stepan went on to play in all 82 regular season games during his rookie campaign and scored 21 goals and 24 assists with a plus-8 rating.
The 2011-12 season was very similar and saw Stepan play all 82 games, score 17 goals and 34 assists with plus-14 rating. He really broke out in the NHL during the lockout shortened season. In 48 games, he scored 18 goals and 26 assists with an impressive plus-25 rating. Although Stepan struggled early this season, it appears he is beginning to turn the corner. Over his last eight games, he has scored three goals and five assists. He likes to score in streaks and is playing well as of late, so he could make a big impact for team USA in Sochi.
Stepan was born in Hastings, Minn. where he worked at his father’s sporting goods store. His father, Brad Stepan, was also drafted by the Rangers, and they are the only father-son duo to be drafted by the team. Stepan went on to attend Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School in Minnesota where he won back-to-back USA Tier I U-18 National Championships in 2007 and 2008. Shattuck-St. Mary Prep School is the same school that developed Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Towes and Zach Parise.
After his time at prep school, Stepan attended University of Wisconsin where he played two seasons before moving up to play in the NHL. During his second season, he led the NCAA in assists with 42 and was second in points with 54. Wisconsin also won the National Championship that season, and Stepan scored the game-winning goal to send his team to the finals. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was a teammate of Stepan’s in college, and they are currently teammates with the Rangers. McDonagh was also selected to Team USA and will be at the Olympics in Sochi.
Stepan may have difficulty finding his way into the starting lineup in Sochi, but Team USA should make sure to find a spot for him. He has won at every level he has played and could be a huge asset to the team’s success.