Rangers-Derek Stepan: After practice on Wednesday Stepan told reporters that it was his goal to improve every year he is in the NHL. The third-year center is certainly following that path. After a solid 21-goal, 45-point rookie season in 2010-11 Stepan upped his point total to 51 last year, while also becoming a valuable member of the Rangers penalty killing and power play units. Now this season Stepan has not only played extremely well offensively---his 20 points (8-12-20) in 29 games ranks second on the team---but he is excelling in all areas on the ice, now routinely playing in every major situation and logging more than 20 minutes of ice-time a night. He has played with revolving linemates and continues to produce---he has 11 points in his last 11 games. Quite simply Derek Stepan has made himself one of the most valuable players on the team this season.
Panthers-Jonathan Huberdeau: The third overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft has given the Panthers everything they could have hoped for as a 19 year-old rookie this season. Huberdeau leads the Panthers---as well as all NHL rookies---in goals with 12, including two gorgeous penalty shot goals already. He also is tied with Tomas Kopecky and Tomas Flieschmann for the Panthers lead in points with 19, where he trails only Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher by two points for the league's rookie lead. Huberdeau is averaging more than 17 minutes of ice-time per game, and it's not hard imaging him in another year or two becoming 20+ minute player who scores 30+ goals a season.