Derek Stepan has a favorite NHL player to watch.
It’s Sebastian Aho.
Stepan, a 31-year-old center for the Carolina Hurricanes, raved about his 24-year-old teammate, also a center, on this week’s episode of the “NHL @TheRink” podcast with co-hosts Dan Rosen and Shawn P. Roarke on Wednesday.
“That’s me being completely honest with him that he is right now my favorite player to watch,” Stepan said. “One thing I didn’t really know about him, and I obviously knew he was talented, but I didn’t realize how fast he was playing against him. He really can scoot around the ice. He’s a competitive kid. He wants to win. He’s a great leader. It’s fun to watch.”
Aho leads the Hurricanes in goals (15), assists (22) and points (37) in 30 games. He’s part of Carolina’s young core that made Stepan excited to sign a one-year, $1.35 million contract on July 31.
The Hurricanes (24-7-2) enter Wednesday tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division with the New York Rangers.
Stepan has scored eight points (four goals, four assists) in 26 games. He has scored 493 points (172 goals, 321 assists) in 785 games with the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators and Hurricanes.
“For me, going back to July and picking a spot to play, it was very important to me to go into a spot and maybe be in this type of role, more of a support,” Stepan said. “I wanted to be able to help a team maybe get over the hump per se. I’ve really liked the role, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve been able to just play the game and learn from this group that has got it figured out. It’s a unique spot for me and I’m really enjoying it.”
In addition to the interview with Stepan, Rosen and Roarke analyzed center Evgeni Malkin‘s impact on the Pittsburgh Penguins now that he has played his first game, and where center Jack Eichel could eventually fit in with the Vegas Golden Knights.
They also talked about the burgeoning Sunshine State Rivalry between the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, the top two teams in the Atlantic Division. They disagreed on who should be considered the better of the two right now.
The co-hosts also broke down what it means for the Detroit Red Wings to bring Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom back into the mix as the vice president of hockey operations. They also discussed if Edmonton Oilers could be the right fit for free-agent right wing Evander Kane.
The NHL @TheRink podcast is free and listeners can subscribe on all podcast platforms. It is also available on NHL.com/multimedia/podcasts and the NHL app.
Listen: New episode of NHL @The Rink