Derek Stepan Makes Strong Case to Make Rangers’ Roster

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September 24, 2010

Facing off against the New Jersey Devils' top line of Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk is no easy task, especially for a rookie who has never played an NHL game before.

But New York Rangers prospect Derek Stepan managed to do just that while centering the New York Rangers' top line in Thursday night?s preseason game.

With Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov on his wings, Stepan tried to make his case for earning a roster spot next month. The six-foot center ended the night with one assist and a lot of fans, including coach John Tortorella.

"I don't think he gets too uptight about who he's playing with and I thought he did a pretty good job," Tortorella said. "That's what I like about him. I think he's able to handle these situations and not really get blown away by it."

Stepan was the Rangers? 2008 second-round draft pick (51st overall). After playing two years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stepan was signed by the Rangers. In his second year playing for the Badgers, he had 54 points in 41 games (12 goals, 42 assists).

Stepan went on to captain the U.S. World Junior Hockey team at the end of 2009, leading the team to a shocking finals win over Canada in overtime on Jan. 5, 2010. The young captain scored four goals and earned 10 assists in seven games, gaining him a spot on the All-Star team.

Now Stepan?s biggest challenge is fighting off the competition on his own team. The Rangers have Artem Anisimov and Erik Christensen already at center, and Stepan, Brian Boyle, Todd White and Tim Kennedy battling for the last two spots.

The Rangers have five more preseason games to sort out their roster, but the way Stepan played Thursday night, the Rangers may have found a fix for filling in their lines around their injured captain, Chris Drury.

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