With the loss of Chris Drury for the first few games of the regular season with a broken finger, the Rangers will need to find a short-term replacement for the center. Enter 20-year-old Derek Stepan. So far, Stepan has impressed the important people who make the decisions for the Rangers and has even caught the eye of NHL.com writer Dave Lozo.
"It's tough to see where he'd fit, but if he keeps playing like he is right now, he'd certainly deserve [a roster spot]," Lozo told me via Twitter.
Coach John Tortorella told newyorkrangers.com that Stepan "is a very mature, very humble, kid." Who knows if that's what it will take for the 20-year-old to take advantage of the opportunity he has been given?
In their first exhibition game, Stepan centered the Gaborik-Frolov line for the first two periods and notched an assist on Gaborik's goal early in the first period.
The Rangers know that Stepan will bring youth and energy to the team if he is able to grab the spot left vacant by the injured Drury. If Stepan can step up and play well throughout the remaining time in camp and if he makes the team and plays well in the early part of the regular season, he might be able to prove to the organization that he is ready to take on the NHL. The Islanders haven't had much trouble breaking in their youngster John Taveres; granted Stepan is nowhere near the talent level of Tavares.
Nonetheless, the Rangers should definitely consider keeping him around, if not for his talents, then for the energy and youth he will provide to the older guys. He can learn a lot from playing with stars such as Gaborik and Frolov, and that can only be helpful down the road.