Derek Stepan is without a doubt an invaluable asset to the New York Rangers. This season, without him in the lineup, the Rangers have clearly struggled. They lack depth down the middle and his absence at the beginning of the season definitely left a major gap in the roster. The Rangers rank second to last in the league on face-off percentage and it shows during their match ups.
Stepan is an iron man for the Rangers and finally missed a game during the 2014 playoffs where Brandon Prust hit him up high and broke his jaw. The only other time he missed a game was this past Thursday in Boston, a 3-0 loss.
Without him in the lineup, the lack of center depth shows. Their best face-off man is fourth line center Dominic Moore, at 55.2 %. While Stepan is currently at 42.7 %, he makes up for his low percentage with his great hockey sense and great play in all three zones.
He kills penalties, plays on the power play and shuts down players in the neutral zone. He is very active in the offensive zone, and it shows in how points he tallies at the end of each season. In the past three seasons, Derek Stepan has been in the top five for scoring on the team.
This season, at thirty games, Stepan has thirty one points. When is in the lineup, he clearly is a difference maker. Killing penalties with Rick Nash, they are a dangerous unit, and have proven it by having a combined seven shorthanded points. On the power play, Stepan is extremely dangerous. As a playmaker and a sniper, he can set up the perfect one timer pass or bury the puck in the net. He has two power play goals this season and nine power play points. In his absence during the 3-0 loss to Boston, his presence was definitely missed on special teams.
During the game at Columbus on Friday (a 2-1 win), Stepan had the initial assist on both goals. His on ice vision and puck poise is one of the best on the Rangers, and it showed on his pass to Chris Kreider when he put the puck in between two Columbus defenseman for a breaking Kreider on the wing who then buried it past Bobrovsky.
In today’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Stepan had two goals, one coming on the power play.
It is safe to say, that Stepan is a valuable member of the New York Rangers. The former second round pick has been lighting it up for the Rangers since he broke into the league. He has been one of the leader’s in scoring since he’s been on the roster. He is one of the leader’s on this team and plays like it every game.
He is due to become a free agent after this season, and the Rangers’ front office must do what they can to lock him up long term. Losing him would prove deadly to the roster and only expose their lack of depth at center. They play their best hockey with him in the lineup and he does everything he can to help them win. Glen Sather and his staff must come up with a perfect deal to keep him New York, because he is a difference maker for this team.