After putting up a hat trick in his first career game against the Sabres all the way back in October, and finishing a stellar rookie campaign with 21 goals 24 assists for 45 points as well as being one of only 4 Rangers to play in all 82 games (a modern miracle for sure) Derek took the opportunity to play for Team USA in this years World Championships after the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Capitals.
Put on team USA's top line with Craig Smith and Blake Wheeler, Derek has been Team USA's best player by far with 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points including having a point in every game the US has played.
Derek has really taken advantage of the larger ice surface that allows him to fully show off his vision and passing abilities and his work along the half boards (Memo to Torts: Stepan along the left wing half boards is where needs to be on the PP...if he's on the point, a disaster beyond your imagination will occur) has picked apart lesser teams and has given the Americans a chance in the offensive zone against the bigger, more talented teams.
Now does this mean that Step is our first line center next season? Absolutely not, this is a team USA featuring Blake Wheeler and Craig Smith (who is still in Wisconsin) as Step's first line wingers. But if Step could play like this next season then he is solidifying his spot as our number two center.
His faceoffs have seemed to improved as well, I can't find the numbers to back me up, but from what I've seen he's been a lot better on the dot than he has been.
Stepan has really taken this opportunity to shine during the WC and has developed a clutch gene, scoring the tying goal late in the third against Canada as well as setting up a couple of USA's other third period goals, always skating towards the offense and driving the game towards the opponents net. All the things you can ask for from your future #1 or #2 center (most likely number 2...depending on certain moves made in the offseason)