Up next in our prospect review is one of my favorite prospects, Derek Stepan. Stepan--a second round pick in the 2008 draft--is one of the Rangers best prospects. His stock has risen every time he has stepped onto the ice and played competitive hockey. Whether it was his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin--where he scored 9 goals andadded 24 assists for 33 points in 40 games (by the way if you are not a college hockey fan those numbers are outstanding) or his play in high school the kid is simply impressive.
But what was probably the biggest eye opener was his preformance at this years USA-Russia Evaluation camp in which he notched 8 points (1 goal 7 assists) in four games. The New York Rangers official website had this to say about Stepans performance during the tournament:
Stepan's numbers in the four-game series were remarkable. The University of Wisconsin sophomore, drafted by the Blueshirts in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, finished with one goal and seven assists for eight points in four games. Most of his scoring came on the power-play, where the U.S. was absolutely lethal.
Check after the jump for more on Stepan.
As you all know our friend Jess from the Prospect Park will be contributing to these stories with little blurbs about the prospects. Jess is a prospect expert, so when he says a guy is good you better believe him; which is why the review he gives Stepan excites me greatly. Here is what Jess had to say:
A huge steal in the 2nd round, not only the fastest Ranger prospect but also the smartest. Stepan has a great first step which just blows right by defenders, a very confident prospect who backs up his talk by his play. Can score or set up which makes him lethal on the power play. Playing at Wisconsin is rounding out his game so he just might be the Ranger's future first line center.
Obviously one of the things we have been preaching on this site--and on the radio show--is that Stepan does not try to be flashy. He is insanely fast with a great first stride which allows him to blow by defenders. Once into the open ice his offensive talent allows him to score the goals or feed the goals--either way he is putting up points. He has been very impressive thus far and I cannot wait to see what he does next.
The New York Daily News ran a story on Stepan in the beginning of last year and they interviewed Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves. At this point in the 40 game season Stepan was having some scoring problems putting up 2 goals and 5 assists in 14 games (which, by the way, means he had a monster second half of the season). Mike Eaves said this about Stepan:
"I think he has some things that you don't teach," Eaves said. "He has a very nice skill set in terms of pucks, he sees the ice well, and he has the puck skills to make things happen. He's got a good head for the game. He understands how the game goes together, and I think the intangible that he has is that he's a rink rat. He likes to be around the game, he talks about the game. He comes to the rink with an idea of what he wants to get done, how he wants to get better, so every day, he's moving forward."
So even when Stepan was struggling everyone was still impressed by him. Stepan will be returning to the University of Wisconsin for his sophomore season. I know that my Quinnipiac Bobcats don't play Wisconsin but I will be keeping a very close eye on Stepan. What do you all think? Let me know in the comments!