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Feb 14, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) carries as Philadelphia Flyers defender Andrew MacDonald (47) follows during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Over his career, Derek Stepan has been a key contributor to the New York Rangers Hockey Club, but can he be counted on as a No. 1 Center in the future?

Derek Stepan has had quite the career as a New York Rangers center. If, for whatever reason, his time in a Blueshirt ended tomorrow, many will remember him for scoring this goal against the Washington Capitals:

Boy, that gives me chills every time, Doc announcing in his iconic yell, Stepan jumping around like a five-year-old on Christmas day, his teammates mobbing him while Braden Holtby lies motionless in his crease. It will be one of those Ranger memories that will forever be etched in my mind.

But the debate will forever rage on, “Is Derek Stepan a true No. 1 center in the NHL?” 

More of a pass first guy, Stepan possesses incredible vision; there is no denying that. Now, there’s also no denying Stepan is not an elite skater and that he doesn’t do one thing that’s out of this world good. He’s just solid in everything, though.

At 0.70 points per game in his career, no one would argue that he’s not a productive center in the NHL. Even in comparison to some of the more household names out there, he ranks pretty high. Everyone also should know that game of hockey goes well beyond the stat sheet. Little things like contributions on Special Teams, face-offs, defensive zone play and shutting down opposition’s top lines all are massive contributions to a club and all are integral parts to a Stanley Cup run.

[graphiq id=”hUHfbdeKhZb” title=”Derek Stepan Profile” width=”600″ height=”1042″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/hUHfbdeKhZb” ]

Whatever we all decide on at the end of this article, one thing sneaky about Derek Stepan is that he’s a winner at all levels.

In his Sophomore year of college, Stepan (and current NYR captain Ryan McDonagh) led Wisconsin to a second-place finish in the tough WCHA, second only to the Denver Pioneers. Stepan finished second in scoring in all of NCAA to Maine Standout and current Detriot Red Wing Gustav Nyquist. It was in that same year that Stepan led the World Juniors Under 20 U.S. team to a gold medal where he was team captain. Stepan posted 14 points to lead the tournament over more household names like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

It wasn’t shortly after that Stepan signed his ELC and joined the Rangers in the 2010-2011 season where he posted a hat trick in his first game en route to a very solid rookie campaign at 21 goals 24 assists for 45 points. Since then, Step has maintained his current pace of around 0.70 points per game placing him among the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Kesler, and Tyler Johnson

First and foremost, I wouldn’t trade Step for any of these aforementioned three, although what’s interesting about those three is that they all are second line centers. Nugent-Hopkins has McDavid, Kesler has Getzlaf, and Johnson has Stamkos when healthy. Debatable if he brings more value than those three, I certainly would say he has better vision than Kesler, who’s more of a straight line hard-nosed power forward, or better in the d zone than Nugent-Hopkins who’s career plus/minus is a disaster. But all in all, is that good enough to warrant him a first line center?

So if he’s not one, who qualifies? When you look around the league at the center position, you have your superstars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Connor McDavid. Yes, they’re bona fide number one centers in the league hands down. Then you kind of slide down to tier II of the matter where guys like Toews, David Krecji, Logan Couture, Jeff Carter and Patrice Bergeron sit. Again, these guys don’t bring a boatload of points, but all of them do offer more than Stepan in many regards and that would be why I have them ranked ahead of him. Jonathan Toews is an elite skater who when he’s not producing, he still can shut down opposing teams top lines. Same for Bergeron, who has a couple Selke trophies to his name, an award given to the most defensively responsible forward in the league.

Then we get to the tier where I rank Stepan. Again some guys like Johnson, Nugent-Hopkins, and Kesler as well as some younger guys like Mikael Granlund who’s finally having the breakout season Wild fans have been waiting for. Same goes for Mark Scheifele, who both would have higher ceilings than Stepan in the long term, evidenced by both of their coming out parties.

All in all, do I believe Derek Stepan is a No. 1 center in the league? No. I think he’s a fantastic 2C that would make any team with a bonafide No. 1 an instant contender but he’s just not good enough to carry the load when duty really calls. Overall, I believe because of Stepan’s lack of elite skating ability, lack of physicality, and lack of a great release on his shot, it limits him in how effective he can be as an offensive force.

Is this a call for Derek Stepan’s head? No. I like Stepan and I think he brings a lot to the table for the club and the current situation down the middle with Zibanajed (who’s still developing) and Hayes (who’s also still developing) make the Rangers one of the best with Center depth in the league.

However, if the Rangers were to lose one of those guys and have to deploy a more conventional lineup that features less depth, then I think they would be better suited elsewhere.

26 COMMENTS

  1. So within a few hours of me posting this response a certain person will hop on here and reply to me that I’m a fan boy and that Stepan isn’t worth the money, etc. etc. BRING IT ON!

    To answer your question, YES — he’s a Top line center, but not an elite one. Without a doubt this is a down year for Stepan offensively and yet, he’s tied for 28th in scoring among all centers, he’s #6 in plus/minus … he’s also #28 TOI among centers. Yes, he won’t WOW you offensively as a top line guy, in that respect he’s a marginal 1st line center, but everything else he does on the ice screams VALUE ADDED. He spends a lot of time killing penalties, he takes a lot of the important draws despite the fact he’s not good on faceoffs (although better at defensive zone faceoffs than in any other zone). He’s a crunch time center and a leader, you can count on him.

      • No, I think you’re an idiot … and just like Trump in the way you deal with people on the internet.

        Regardless he outscored all the other centers on the team while playing the best defense — #6 in +/- of all centers in the league. Now try and refute that with some alternate fact from your alternate reality. Time to get back on your meds.

          • I will not stand by and allow you to bully and intimidate others.

            I saw your act elsewhere and its very tiresome.

          • We all saw your act elsewhere and everybody got tired of it, real fast. Stop trying to displace your own personality flaws and issues on others.

          • you also took advantage of flaws in the system where you could post under several names. your writing style gave you away.

          • You’re not qualified to comment on writing styles. No one believed your accusations because they were so poorly backed up … but keep trying. I never felt the need to criticize you under different names, you’re too easy to criticize and I was never afraid of your bullying tactics.

          • reread what you post. your are nasty and enjoy berating people. whether hockey or politics you are a very unsavory person in how you harass.

          • wrong as usual

            I will continue to hold you accountable for all of the above and more when your posts warrant it – as they often do.

          • You’re a good stalker, I’ll give you that …. but you can’t hold anyone accountable without resorting to bald face lies.

          • not lying and we both know it. you have a past that I will hold you accountable for (including predictions and defending sathers abysmal drafts as well as bashing players like grabner before he came here and stralman on the way out). then I see you bullying people over politics. so a lot to hold you accountable over.

          • No, I know you’re the stalker and pathological liar — I’m precise and can recall exactly what I said with regard to all the topics you’re bringing up. My positions are way too nuanced for you so you try to boil them down to fit your agenda. That’s the definition of intellectual dishonesty.

          • couldn’t disagree more on all your actions, predictions, bullying, etc.

            even when I run across your bullying days later I will address it.

          • “… run across”? lol You’re a stalker; you don’t run across anything, you actively search it out because you thrive on creating conflict. I have to pity the people close to you, they must have it much rougher than the people you stalk on the net.

          • like I said – if and when I run across your posts that need to be addressed, I will do so. whether its about rangers (you know how I feel about sathers abysmal drafts) or some other subject that you bully someone, I will address it.

          • Got to call BS on that. You literally reply to every post I make involving hockey — stalker. lol

          • I get email update when you reply to my posts

            I then see what other posts you did on hockey since I know I will have different reasonable take than the nonsense you post.

            I have already said that you are being held accountable

          • Searching me out. Yep, a stalker … you’re always responding to something I write and it’s always out of the blue.

          • again emails come when you reply to me

            it’s not that hard to understand

            well maybe it is for you.

            still mad we signed grabner?

          • Are you really that DENSE? I never initiate contact with you, the only time I answer you is when you’ve initiated contact with me — scroll up, it’s always the same. I can’t believe you don’t get it, just more proof of how you try to obfuscate everything. You follow me around and look for something to respond to, then afterwards I respond to you. Doh.

            Re: Grabner, I was never “mad” about his signing … and what, he scored an ENG (after scoring 1 goal in the last 23 games)? As I recall you always like to point out how many ENGs players you don’t like score, as if it’s a negative. Hypocrite.

          • like I said when I come across something that you wrote that needs correcting, a contrary opinion or when you bully someone, expect a rebuttal.

            yes you were very angry when grabner was signed as you were about the threat of resigning stralman. you wanted dan boyle

          • you also gave yourself away when you replied to one of your user names from another user name you used. the problem the person you replied to was the same as the one you were posting under.

            example. you replied to smith while posting under smith instead of your other name jones. it was bound to happen with all your switching around.