Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin have been enjoying breakout seasons. They're both in the top four in team scoring, while also making a difference on the defensive end.
Another way they've had a positive role on this team is by attending every optional practice this season. Which John Tortorella addressed yesterday…
"I've used them as examples. Especially in this type of year where guys were thinking do I need rest or should I get extra ice without the camp. We certainly, after a few weeks, used those two guys as examples of being there all the time. Catch a lot of crap about it, because I've used them as examples. But they like playing. These are kids. I think kids should be playing. We overthink the tiredness sometimes and they just want to play."
Here's Hagelin on Stepan's success this season (via Newsday)…
"He's been really good in the last 20 or so games. I don't know if he's doing anything different. I guess he's used to the game again after not playing for almost half a year [because of the lockout]. He's such a smart player, he's coming into his own right now, making plays and looking stronger each game . . . Defensively, he wins a lot of battles so you can get out of your zone a lot easier, and when you get the puck, he usually finds those lanes where you can pass it to him."
…i absolute love hearing this. Not only are these two a great example for Miller, Kreider and any of the other prospects who have been or will be recalled, but I think it has a positive affect on the veterans as well. Enthusiasm is contagious. Hopefully a guy like Richards, who is obvously struggling, sees the success Step and Hags are having with the additional ice time and decides to join them.
…this also goes back to my theory that the Rangers (Torts & the players) were woefully unprepared as how to handle the lockout. Torts seemed to hold back in camp and the first few weeks, which I think we all see might not have been the best game plan. Hindsight is 20/20 but I would have liked Torts to have realized that the lack of ice wasn't working and gotten these guys in the rink more often whether that was through Callahan letting the team know that "optional" practices weren't necessarily optional or working them harder during regular practices.