The New York Rangers currently stand on the cusp of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite coming in as a heavy favorite to take the conference, they’ve struggled throughout the year and will need a strong finish to grab the eight seed in the East.
Many of their top players have not played like top players. Brad Richards has been a monumental disappointment and Marian Gaborik found his way out. One player, though, has taken his game to the next level and been huge for them this year. That player is Derek Stepan.
Stepan has had two very solid years in this league. He tallied 45 points in his first year in 2010-11 before posting 51 in 82 games last season. If this were going to be a full season, Stepan would very likely be on pace to eclipse his previous career highs in both goals and assists.
On the season, Stepan has 35 points, coming in just 42 games. That total includes 15 goals and 20 assists, with nine of his points coming on the power play. Four of his goals have also been of the game-winning variety. That point total leaves him tied for the team lead with Rick Nash, and no player has as many game-winners as Stepan does.
Though his success in the faceoff circle leaves a bit to be desired, with a success rate of only 46 percent, Stepan has established himself as a top six center for this club. He’s demonstrated some excellent playmaking skills and should be a player who can touch 70 points regularly in the future.
As we near the postseason, Stepan is going to be a key to what the Rangers accomplish, assuming they make it into the postseason party. He’s a playmaker for the likes of Nash and will be an important player down the middle, as he’s their biggest offensive threat right now coming out of the center spot.