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Zachary Stepan following cousin Derek's path

by Mike G. Morreale

Let's cut right to the chase, shall we?

Cousins Zachary and Derek Stepan are completely different players.

For starters, there's the discrepancy in age. Zachary, who will play for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League next season, is 18 years old and No. 53 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.

Zachary Stepan and his older cousin, Rangers center Derek Stepan, are close. Zachary hopes to take the next step on the same path that carried Derek to the NHL at the 2012 NHL Draft. (Photo: Getty Images)

He's expected to be chosen in the second or third round when this year's draft is held June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Derek is 21 and just completed his second season with the New York Rangers. He was No. 58 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2008 draft, and was taken by the Rangers in the second round with the 51st pick.

Derek measured the same height (6-foot) and was just two pounds heavier (168) than Zachary in his draft year when he had 36 goals and 91 points as a senior at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minn.

"Derek has more of the finesse than I do, but we're similar in playmaking skills and the way we think the game in finding open guys on the ice," Zachary told "But I can shoot the puck better and I'm grittier."

"He's big and strong, shoots the puck hard and he's kind of got a little mean bone in him," Derek Stepan said of his cousin.

There's no question having a resource like Derek Stepan to contact for advice and guidance in the midst of your draft year is quite a benefit. Zachary even took the same prep school route, and helped lead Shattuck-St. Mary's to its second straight USA Hockey Under-18 national title behind three goals, including a team-leading two on the power play, and six points in six tournament games in April. He had 22 goals and 65 points in 50 regular-season games.

"Shattuck was an awesome place to learn hockey," Zachary said. "You literally eat, sleep and breathe hockey; that's all you do. It was great."

"Derek has more of the finesse than I do, but we're similar in playmaking skills and the way we think the game in finding open guys on the ice. But I can shoot the puck better and I'm grittier."
-- Zachary Stepan on his cousin, Rangers' forward Derek Stepan

Stepan delivered the decisive goal for Shattuck 6:02 into the first period of a 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Jr. Kings on April 1 in the U-18 national championship game in Williamsville, N.Y.

While he may not be the spitting image of his cousin when he's on the ice, there is one NHL player he does feel comfortable in making a comparison -- New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise, also a graduate of Shattuck-St. Mary's.

"It's not just because he played at Shattuck, but because of the way I play, I look at him and want to play like him because he's a big leader on and off the ice," Stepan said. "I met him while at Shattuck and he's a great guy."

In his final two seasons at Shattuck (2000-01 and 2001-02), Parise had 146 goals and 340 points in 125 games.

"He's not just a one-way player who can score goals, and that's why the NHL is so better off for having a player like him because he does all the little things right," Stepan said.

NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory feels the younger Stepan is fearless, and that's something that attracts scouts and general managers.


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"He understands that playing in every zone is important and he's a finisher … I like how he passes the puck," Gregory told "He's not afraid to pursue the puck in any area and get into traffic so he can possess the puck and make plays from there.

"He's got good size, so he'll fill out and he'll have a good-size body to play that game at the next level."

Stepan is committed to Ohio State University for the fall of 2013.

"My plan right now is to join Waterloo next season, but if the team that drafts me says I should be playing somewhere else, I'm going to listen to what they have to say," Stepan said. "My ultimate goal is to play in the NHL."

Stepan said he spoke to cousin Derek about once a week during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He didn't want to bother him at such a busy time in the season. Still, whenever he did make contact, the elder Stepan always took the time to talk.

"He's like a big brother and I remember how he always let me join him with his friends to play when we were younger," Stepan said. "He never blew me off, and growing up that was a big part, because if you get blown off by someone you look up to, it's heartbreaking."

Zachary said it was inspiring to watch Derek during the playoffs. He had one goal and eight points in 20 playoff games as the Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps one day Zachary will be lining up with him -- or against him.

"He's gaining confidence playing in the NHL," Zachary said. "He still has the finesse on me, but I still have the bigger hits."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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