Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Could Derek Stepan Play In Sunday's All-Star Game?

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
New York Rangers rookie Derek Stepan has been one of the many pleasant surprises for the team so far this season.  The 20-year-old rookie center has 13 goals, 16 assists and 29 points in his first 50 games.  His performance allowed for him to be one of 12 rookies selected to participate in the Honda NHL SuperSkills on Saturday, Jan. 29, during 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend.  The question today though is whether Stepan might be playing during Sunday’s main game as well.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, during his weekend wrap, discussed the idea that NHL is going to give the injured players selected for the game all the time they can to decide if they can participate in the All-Star game.  According to Pierre, that means there would not be any selection of additional replacement players to participate in the game.
Why? Because the league will replace any injured All-Star from the pool of rookies already attending the skills event. I think this is an absolutely brilliant solution.
Sidney Crosby bowed out of the festivities on Monday, which should be enough time to find a replacement from outside those already going.  However, Evgeni Malkin and Ales Hemsky are two current All-Star players sidelined by injury who all seem unlikely to play in the game. Of the 12 rookies selected to participate in the skills event one would assume the first two choices would be Calder favorites Jeff Skinner (Carolina) and Logan Couture (San Jose).  If there is another injury or if the league does not replace Crosby from outside those already going, then I would say Derek Stepan is the most qualified of those who will already be in attendance. 
As of Saturday, the league was kicking around how the rookies would be chosen for the game. Would they be part of Friday's fantasy draft, or would the rookies win their way into the game by excelling in Saturday night's skills event? Both are interesting ideas.
Both of those ideas bring different sorts of intrigue to the process.  If you have them in the draft it adds another player from the hometown team that Eric Staal is supposed to select.  If you let them win their way into the game you could end up with a scenario where the guys who have had the best year’s, as rookies, do not get in or possibly defenders get in instead of forwards.
Overall I do not think that Stepan has had the kind of year to be worthy of playing in the All-Star game itself, but in the end the game is a show and if the rookies are going to participate instead of bringing in the guys who have had better years, then I would love to see Stepan represent the Rangers on Sunday.