Just like his Team USA upstaged Jordan Eberle's heroics last January by winning gold in Saskatoon at the 2010 IIHF U20 WJCs, Derek Stepan had to figure out a way to one up the high bar set by Eberle's first NHL goal. Rather than look at upping the quality, Stepan simply went for volume in his quest: after getting goal #1 on a deflection, aided by Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers' skate, he decided to hang out in the low slot around Ryan Miller all night and add to his total. By the end of the night, he got a couple of Rangers fans in the audience at HSBC Arena in Buffalo to toss their hats in his honour, becoming the fourth player in modern NHL history (post-1927) to score a hat trick in his first NHL game.
And he overwhelmed his mom in the process:
Derek's father, Brad, was also a Rangers draft pick, going 91st overall in the 1985 Entry Draft, five years before Derek was born. Being the son of a former professional hockey player and growing up in Hastings, Minnesota, Stepan really had no choice: he was going to be a hockey player. His hockey background is top notch: he enrolled in Shattuck-St. Mary's boarding school in Faribault, Minnesota, which has attracted top end hockey talent like Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise and Jonathon Toews in recent years. After being drafted 40 spots ahead of his father in the 2008 Entry Draft, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin, putting up over a point per game in his first two years there before turning pro. Most hockey fans were introduced to him this past winter at the U20 World Juniors in Saskatoon, where he put up an impressive 14 points in 7 games as captain of the gold medal winning USA team. Aside from winning gold, he was also named to the tournament's All-Star team.
Despite all that, he wasn't considered a high end prospect as he started his professional career. Making the Rangers out of training camp was a bit of a surprise, and an injury to Vaclav Prospal opened up a centre spot in the top 6. So Stepan was primed for some good ice time, and in his first NHL game, he took full advantage of that. Since then... he's yet to score. Better find whatever horseshoe or lucky penny he was carrying that first night. Or bring your mom to every game, Derek.