With the second half of the NHL season now underway, it is time to start discussing the Calder race and which rookies have been the best performers to this point. Kevin Forbes of Hockey's Future did just that in a recent article ranking this season's top ten rookies.
Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers was ranked sixth on the list....
6. Derek Stepan, C - New York Rangers
DOB: June 18, 1990
Drafted 51st overall (2nd round) in 2008
Fourth among rookies in scoring, Derek Stepan has adjusted quickly to the NHL. In just his first year of pro hockey, the former collegiate star has seen his average ice time steadily increase as the season has gone by. More importantly, he's played in every game this year, a bit of a remarkable achievement on a Rangers squad that has been torn apart with injury over the course of the season. Currently third among New York players in scoring, Stepan has 14 goals and 30 points in 52 games this season. After originally lining up beside Marian Gaborik, the 20-year-old has lately played alongside of fellow rookie Mats Zuccarello and veteran Wojtek Wolski.
Stepan's freshman year has been nothing short of magnificent. From his opening night hat trick against the Buffalo Sabres to making the 2011 All-Star rookie squad, it has been one fabulous journey for 20-year-old DStep to this point.
Continue reading after the jump....
Not mentioned in the above excerpt was something that Derek brings to the team that doesn't show up on the scoresheet. That is leadership, and that comes with experience, which Stepan had a lot of entering the NHL. At such a young age, he's played in many meaningful games such as last year's Gold Medal game against Team Canada at the World Juniors. I've heard from many that Derek is very vocal in the locker room, despite being one of the youngest players there.
Some may make a case that Stepan deserves to be higher on that list, but although he's had a great year, there are several rookies that are excelling at a quicker rate, believe it or not.
Take, for example, Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. Not only has this kid lit it up with the Sharks, but does it get any better than this:
And then you have Skinnermania down in North Carolina, where 18-year-old Jeff Skinner has taken the league by surprise.
So while Stepan may not be the best rookie this season, he has sure been an impressive one, and absolutely deserves to be in the Calder race.