In a season that was marked by inconsistent play, there was one player who was not bitten by that bug for the New York Rangers: Derek Stepan. Stepan was the Rangers’ best player for the entire regular season and playoffs.
Stepan was entering his third season with the team and was expected to be a solid no. 2 center, but no one expected him to flourish like he did. The trade for Rick Nash is one of the main reasons Stepan’s play elevated to a different level.
Stepan played in every game of the lockout-shortened season. During the season, he recorded 18 goals and 26 assists for a grand total of 44 points. He also established himself as one of the team’s top penalty killers on the team. He became a player that could play in any situation for the team.
With Brad Richards virtually becoming useless, Stepan emerged as the top center on the team. He became the most steady player for the Rangers. But with John Tortorella being fired, who knows what the future holds for Stepan. You could tell by watching Stepan since he was a rookie that he had really bought into Tortorella’s system. That manifested this season when he became a complete two-way player. Stepan is a restricted free agent and has already expressed his interest to be a Ranger for life. There is no doubt he is at the top of the priority list for the Rangers’ front office.
No matter what happens with the Rangers’ coaching job, Stepan must continue to grow. He will be counted on big time for the Rangers moving forward.