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Fantasy Spin: Rangers' Stepan suddenly a 'must-own'

by Pete Jensen

A month ago, New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan was a shot in the dark from a fantasy standpoint.

How things have changed.

After registering nine points in his first 18 games this season, Stepan has had points in 11 of his next 14 -- totaling 16 during that stretch. On Tuesday, the damage was done at the expense of the division rival Philadelphia Flyers, as the 22-year-old reeled off the first four-point game (1G, 3A, plus-3) of his three-year National Hockey League career.

Derek Stepan has emerged as one of the Rangers most consistent offensive weapons over the last month. He suddenly deserves fantasy ownership in any league. (Photo: Getty Images)

Stepan has been effective when he's operated on a line with Rick Nash at points this season, and Tuesday served as the latest example. Stepan had a hand in both of Nash's goals, and Nash assisted on Stepan's tally. Their time together has been limited this season, but there have already been eight Ranger goals this season that both Stepan and Nash had a hand in -- meaning there's a chance the line could eventually stick.

As for Stepan's individual success, his power-play ice time is slightly down from last season, but his production is significantly up in those situations. He's logging an average of 2:49 per game with the man advantage compared to 3:06 last season, but he's accumulated eight power-play points in 32 games after totaling 16 in 82 games a season ago.

His single-game outburst on Tuesday brings back memories of when Stepan notched a hat trick in his NHL debut on October 9, 2010, but his consistent productivity these days proves he's on track toward becoming a complete player -- and fantasy asset -- in this League.

The Rangers offense has struggled mightily at points, but the team does hold an 8-2-0 record this season when Stepan scores a goal. If you're in a shallow league where Stepan (owned in 41 percent of Yahoo! leagues) is floating on the waiver wire, his point production and plus-12 rating make him a must-add.

It also goes without saying that if Rangers coach John Tortorella decides to keep Stepan and Nash united for the remainder of the season, there could be even more return for investing in his fantasy hockey services.


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