|Assets||An excellent playmaker, he is creative with the puck and also savvy in the defensive zone. A strong positional player, he has a knack for being in the right spot while on the ice. Can play all three forward positions.|
|Flaws||Doesn't have ideal size and strength, which somewhat limits his effectiveness against bigger opponents in the National Hockey League. Could stand to improve his take-off stride and also shoot the puck more.|
|Career Potential||Talented, versatile playmaker with upside.
(Assets, Flaws and Career Potential via The Hockey News player page)
Career Individual Usage, via somekindofninja (click to enlarge):
2013 Rangers Player Usage, via Hockey Abstract:
Why you should know who he is - The 22-year-old forward has been the quintessential developing young talent for the Rangers, improving in each of his three seasons to become one of New York's most potent scorers. Not only did he produce almost as much as and at a higher rate through 48 games than he did in either of his 82-game campaigns, he also jumped over his more experienced - and better compensated - teammates to lead the team in scoring and finished in the top 25 League-wide. Stepan's been remarkably consistent this year, too, as he went more than two games this year without a point just once (and only three times did he go pointless in back-to-back games).
Most importantly, he's ramped up his production against the Caps just as he's improved his numbers against everyone else. His rookie season saw him pick up just one goal and one assist in the regular season, and no points at all in the five-game playoff series; last year he was limited to a single assist in the regular season but had four of his seven playoff points in the second-round series against the Caps. This season? Stepan's tormented them, with a goal in each of New York's three games against the Caps... although granted, they weren't all beauties. Poor Braden Holtby.
How the Caps can stop him - Put a big body on him... the Caps do have a few of those. For all his skill, Stepan is not the biggest guy in the League at just 6 feet and 186 pounds (soaking wet), and in the three games against the Caps he's seen plenty of the Caps' top line - including one big body in particular, Alex Ovechkin. Ovi and company need to play him physical, force him to make mistakes and capitalize when given opportunities.
They might also be able to take advantage of him on the penalty kill, where he logs the second-highest ice time among New York forwards despite the fact that his team doesn't take a ton of penalties, and is tied for the team lead in goals-against while shorthanded with 11. Against the League's best power play in the regular season (and yes, that qualifier is key with this team), he should - hopefully - have his hands full.