Fantasy Hockey 2013: Expect A Big Year From Derek Stepan

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

 

Breathe…

Fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief, as Derek Stepan has finally ended his holdout and signed a two-year extension with the New York Rangers. It’s an exciting time for the Rangers, as they hang onto a heck of a young player, but it’s also an exciting time for fantasy owners, as they are able to plug a top-30 overall player into their starting lineups as we start the season.

Just one year removed from finishing as fantasy’s 30th-best overall player in Yahoo! leagues, Stepan has the opportunity to be even better in 2013. Expected to center a line alongside Rick Nash, Stepan has massive upside, and at just 23-years old, he isn’t even close to reaching the prime of his career just yet. Playing on a line with Nash alone provides Stepan with a ton of fantasy upside, as Nash has the capability and talent to lead the league in goals. He is a pure sniper, and considering almost all of his goals will be assisted by Stepan, he’ll reap the benefits if Nash lights the lamp at will. Now that the holdout is over, Stepan’s fantasy value is certainly on the rise. Keep in mind that there are other guys capable of producing points outside of Nash. For instance, Brad Richards should be a strong candidate to have a major bounce back campaign this year. Richards is another terrific playmaker who could actually set up Stepan for a few goals on the man advantage this season. Sure, you aren’t drafting Stepan for his goals (career-high is 21), but 20 goals is obviously in the realm of possibility. The Rangers also have some very strong puck-moving defensemen who can notch some points as well. Their is talent around Stepan for him to succeed.

Alain Vigneault

After years under defensive-oriented head coach John Tortorella, the Rangers made a change this offseason. Vigneualt will be calling the shots on the bench this year, which could bode extremely well for the likes of Stepan and Nash. While Tortorella praises defense first, Vigneualt is an offensive-minded coach. During his time with Canucks in season’s past, he has brought the best out of both of the Sedin twins. In fact, during the 2006-07 campaign, both Sedins posted career-high numbers in points at the time. I’m excited to see what Vigneualt can do with the likes of Nash and Stepan, as he has a history in bringing out the best in his offensive players. He also brings out the best offensive touch out of his rosters.

Offenses under Vigneault

Year

Team

G/G

Rank

1997 Montreal 2.87 5th
2008 Vancouver 2.96 11th
2009 Vancouver 3.27 2nd
2010 Vancouver 3.15 1st
2011 Vancouver 2.94 5th

 

The Rangers have more than enough offensive talent to land inside the top-10 in goals per contest this season, and with Vigneault’s offensive approach, Stepan could post a career-high in points just like the Sedin’s did years ago. His current career high in points is 51, and when you consider how young he is and the presence of a new head coach, his ceiling is closer to 80 points, if you ask me.

Stepan is in store for a monster season. He will post a career-best in points, assists, and most likely, goals as well. Of course, this is all barring injury, but there has been nothing to indicate that he is an injury prone player. Stepan will also be a strong candidate for a solid plus/minus, and with a stone wall between the pipes in Henrik Lundvist, the new offensive gameplan shouldn’t impact the defense too much. Last year, Stepan posted a solid +25, and actually finished 4th in the NHL in games with a positive plus/minus (22). Again, at just 23-years old, he is only going to get better.

A breakout campaign looms.

Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.


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