Derek Stepan and promising newcomers 

October, 4, 2010

If you follow me on Twitter -- you should -- you know that I braved a little rainy weather to check out the Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers exhibition tilt at Madison Square Garden on Friday night. As it turned out, it was a good idea. The two Eastern Conference foes played a pretty entertaining game. The Rangers won 5-4 in a shootout.

Making the trip gave me another chance to see Rangers rookie center Derek Stepan. I'd seen him against the Detroit Red Wings at MSG two days earlier. On both nights, Stepan impressed. I'd really liked what I saw from him as Team USA's captain during last winter's World Junior Championship tournament. Stepan led his fellow Americans to gold, clinching with an OT victory over Canada.

After completing his sophomore season at Wisconsin, Stepan decided to turn pro, signing with the Rangers, who'd selected him in the second round of the 2008 draft. (In the first round, they grabbed budding star D Michael Del Zotto.)

In five preseason games, Stepan has tallied three goals (including a nice short-handed effort against the Sens) and two assists for five points. Clearly, he knows what to do with the puck. Without it, however, there are still some lessons to be learned -- he was a minus-4 during the preseason. In time, I expect Stepan will figure it out. He's a smart kid with a great disposition.