Derek Stepan had the kind of NHL debut every player dreams of.
The 20-year-old became the first player in the 85-year history of the Rangers and the fourth in the NHL since 1927 to score three goals in his first NHL game, powering New York to a season-opening 6-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
"Not a chance could I have dreamed this," Stepan said after becoming the first Ranger in 55 years to get a hat trick on opening night. "You dream about playing in the NHL, and then you go out and play like that, I mean the hockey gods must have been looking down on me. It was a fun night overall, that's for sure."
Stepan, the captain of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the World Junior Championship in January, turned pro this summer after leading the University of Wisconsin to the NCAA championship game -- and impressed the Rangers enough to earn a roster spot. He joined Montreal's Alex Smart in 1943, Quebec's Real Cloutier in 1979 and Dallas' Fabian Brunnstrom two years ago as the only players to score three times in their first game.