3 New York Rangers Youngsters That Will Soon Be NHL All-Stars
The New York Rangers used to be viewed as the place where older players went to end their career, complete with larger than needed salaries and egos.
Thankfully, general manager Glen Sather and team owner James Dolan now understand that this path is not the best way to achieve their goals of future championships.
The way to do so, as they have learned, is by bringing in fresh, young talent that can blossom under the great direction of their few veterans and team of excellent coaches.
Three such Rangers' youngsters affirming this theory to be correct are Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto.
All three players each bring their own individual skills to the team and have proved to be a very welcome addition to the organization.
If they continue on the path they are on, they are all certain to be future NHL All-Stars.
Derek Stepan, a 21-year-old Hastings, Minnesota native drafted in the second round (51st overall) by the New York Rangers in 2008 has really stepped up to the plate this year.
During his rookie year last year as a forward with the New York Rangers, he scored an impressive 21 goals and 24 assists.
This season he has 11 goals in the 55 games played thus far and has already exceeded his total assists for last season by two, giving him 26 assists with much more room to improve with 27 games left in his second season with the team.
He is improved his plus-minus rating dramatically this season jumping from plus-eight to plus-23, making him ninth overall in the league.
And he's not afraid to shoot the puck which is reflected with his 120 shots on net this season.
Back in October, Rangers head coach John Tortorella bumped Derek Stepan up to the No. 1 line alongside Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards and that has made all the difference.
It is obvious that Stepan has already learned a great deal from these two teammates. In an interview early in the season, Stepan commented about playing alongside veteran Richards, that:
I would just try and be like a sponge and soak up everything I can. And with Gabby, the amount of talent that guy has, there's always something I can learn from him, too.
While Richards has been bumped around on various lines because of his offensive struggles, Stepan has managed to stay atop the first unit.
He then was paired with Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik for a stretch of 29 games from November 5th through January 12th which proved to be the most successful matchup (also becoming known as the GAS line).
Derek Stepan Cont.
Stepan's great vision has contributed largely to the Rangers power play unit, especially within the last few games (which is one area they have had real trouble with this season). He seems to have the knack to anticipate a play happening before it actually does.
During Tuesday night's matchup against the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, Stepan was on the power play unit with Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik when they scored a perfect tic-tac-toe goal in the first period of the game.
If Stepan's career so far is any indication of what his future holds for him, then we will most definitely see him in many NHL All-Star games in years to come.
Ryan McDonagh was a first-round draft pick (12th overall) in 2007 by the Montreal Canadians. Receiving him was absolutely one of the best deals the New York Rangers ever made when he was part of a three-player trade by Montreal back in June of 2009 in exchange for Scott Gomez, Mike Busto and Tom Pyatt.
McDonagh was called up from the Rangers AHL affiliate, Connecticut Whale in early January of 2011 and played 40 games with the Rangers during the 2010-2011 season.
He was originally called up to replace Michael Del Zotto back in 2011, whom had been a healthy scratch for four games prior to his recall and had not been playing up to speed for the Blueshirts.
Since he was called up, he has never wavered and has earned his spot in the Rangers roster.
Last season he had one goal and eight assists, as opposed to this point in the season where he has six goals and 15 assists with 54 games played out of 55.
This 22-year-old defenseman is seventh overall in the league in plus-minus with a plus-24 this season.
Ryan McDonagh Cont.
McDonagh has been a staple on the Rangers' first defensive unit. And pairing him with Dan Girardi has combined to create an in-your-face shot-blocking machine.
With Marc Staal out of the lineup due to a concussion, there was a huge hole to be filled on defense and McDonagh has more than stepped up to the challenge proving himself to be a strong and reliable asset. The best part about him is he remains calm and always makes the right play.
When asked about filling in for the loss of defensive manpower with Staal's concussion, he commented:
With Marc out, we took it upon ourselves to do the job while he takes the times he needs.
McDonagh is 10th overall in the league in ice time, averaging 25:21 minutes a game, which is no small feat, especially for a player only in his second NHL year.
Ryan Mcdonagh is a beast. He is a go-to guy they can depend on and although it may not seem humanly possible, he actually leads Girardi in blocked shots with 140 as opposed to Girardi's 136 for second place overall in the league.
It will come as no surprise to see this Minnesota native donning an All-Star jersey in the near future.
Michael Del Zotto
Michael Del Zotto was drafted in the first round (20th overall) by the New York Rangers back in 2008.
Del Zotto has improved the most since his rookie season with the Blueshirts in 2009-2010. Although he had nine goals and 28 assists during that season, his plus-minus was minus-20.
Last season, he played 47 games for the Rangers and scored two goals and nine assists improving to a minus-five rating. He was sent to the Connecticut Whale for 11 games and never seemed to gain complete confidence from Tortorella.
This season, however, he is back on track with a vengeance scoring seven goals and 23 assists in 55 games played with a plus-27 rating gaining full confidence from Tortorella.
Del Zotto, alongside fellow defenseman Michael Sauer, proved to be a strong defensive pair, until Sauer sustained a concussion as a result of a hit from Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf back on December 5th, 2011 which he still has not recovered from.
This could have been very shaky for the Rangers defense, but DZ was then teamed up with Anton Stralman, who have shown to be another great matchup.
Del Zotto is also so strong offensively and his first pass out of the defensive zone is up there with the best in the game.
He leads the Rangers defenseman with goals and is also excellent on the power play, ranking second in power play assists for the team.
Most importantly, this kid plays with a lot of heart, which is why when combined with his excellent play both offensively and defensively, he will make a great addition to the All-Star team in the future.