Top-flight prospect Derek Stepan is feeling quite confident after a great first pre-season game yesterday against the New Jersey Devils. Stepan finished the game with an assist, four shots on net and countless fantastic passes in traffic.
Stepan also played 18 minutes, including over five minutes on the power play and two minutes on the penalty kill, most of those minutes centering Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov.
In the end, he had a very impressive game. And as Andrew Gross reports, that game has translated into confidence.
And, when asked point blank, whether he thought he was ready for the NHL, Stepan said he was.
"I think I’m ready," Stepan said. "It comes to down to a situation and the right fit and we’ll see what the organization decides to do," Stepan said. "Obviously, I’d like to play in the NHL. But if they feel it’s the right fit in the A(HL), that’s fine, they’ve developed a lot of players."
Stepan said the important thing was his line was getting opportunities, saying his grandpa told him to only start worrying if the opportunities aren’t coming. Stepan also said he’s been taught the hockey philosophy of TWIG (Take What Is Given).
Stepan was impressive all over the ice, but one of the things that really stuck out to me was his defensive positioning. Stepan was paired against Ilya Kovalchuk more than once on the penalty kill, and he did a solid job handling him. He kept Kovalchuk to the outside, clogged up the shooting lanes and made sure that if he was beat his man was beating him towards the boards instead of the slot.
You also can’t say enough about his vision on the ice. He made a few brilliant passes in traffic, and was able to really create some space for himself.
I don’t know if he will make this team out of camp, but John Tortorella was true to his word about giving Stepan a long hard look. And if he keeps up this kind of play, it won’t be a hard decision for Tortorella at all.