I caught up with Rangers rookie Derek Stepan on Saturday to get his thoughts on his first season in the NHL, among other things…
RLD: You got a hat trick in your first game, went cold for a little bit, but have picked up a lot of points lately… do you feel like you’re settling in now? Derek Stepan: Yeah, for sure. I’m getting more and more comfortable. I think it took me three or four games after the hat trick game to kind of find it, but I’m getting more comfortable and it’s been going well for me. RLD: Is the game slowing down for you? DS: I don’t think it’s slowing down, but I’m thinking quicker and making my reads easier.
RLD: As a rookie, what’s it like to play with a talented player like Marian Gaborik? DS: It’s unbelievable. For me, it’s a learning experience every single day I come to the rink and he’s always got something he can teach me here or there. Everything he says I try to keep in my memory bank.
RLD: What’s it like to be a part of this rookie class with so much talent? DS: It’s pretty cool. I played against Jeff Skinner at Traverse City and I got to play him this year with the big club. It’s always a good thing to see guys at your age being successful, that’s for sure.
RLD: Do you still keep track of what Wisconsin Hockey is doing up there? DS: Yeah a little bit. I’ve got a couple buddies still back at school. They tied (Friday) 4-4 and I know my buddy had a hat trick. I keep in touch with those guys a lot.
RLD: You played with Blake Geoffrion, a Preds prospect that fans here in Nashville have only seen in pre-season. What can they expect from him down the road? DS: He’s a leader; he’s a tough hockey player; he’s going to be a goal-scorer for them; he’s going to work hard; he’s a competitor. There’s a lot of things Blake Geoffrion has that they’re going to like. He’s good at a lot of things that fans enjoy watching and he’ll bring that every single night.
RLD: What was it like to be a part of the U.S. World Juniors team that won gold last year in Canada? DS: It was fun, it was a great tournament. Even for as quick as it was, our team molded together so well so I made a lot of friends, too. Everything about it was a positive and then we obviously won the gold medal.
RLD: Good to see a couple guys on that team, John Carlson and Cam Fowler, in the NHL already as well? DS: It’s awesome. Any time you can see guys your age being successful is a great thing. Carlson and Fowler are both great hockey players and they are going to be successful in the NHL for a long time.
RLD: When you were growing up, which players did you look up to or try to resemble your game after? DS: I don’t really know, to be honest with you… people ask me that question quite a bit. I wasn’t super into the NHL right away. I watched college hockey and the Gophers every weekend, but I never had any particular person. I knew all the big names like Steve Yzerman and so on; they were awesome to watch but I never had that one guy. I don’t why I didn’t. I guess I spent more time on outdoor rinks than watching games.
RLD: What are some hobbies you like to do off the ice? DS: It’s changed quite a bit this year… I’m a lot busier. When I’m not busy, it’s a lot of laying around watching television. At school we had a group of guys that went bowling a lot. Just hanging out with the guys, for the most part… and video games!
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.