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Fourth-round pick comes from storied program

Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews.

This trio of NHL superstars has one thing in common: they all attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota, which possesses a historic hockey program that has won 10 National Championships since 1997.

In Saturday’s fourth round of the NHL Draft, the Predators drafted Shattuck-St. Mary’s graduate Zachary Stepan. It will be a few years before it is known whether he joins the long list of NHLers that have graduated from the boarding school in Faribault, Minn. (a small town south of Minneapolis), but the Predators hope they picked up a steal in Stepan, who among six forwards drafted by GM David Poile and company.

Stepan, a forward ranked 53rd among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings, was selected 112th overall by the Predators. After putting up good numbers in his senior season (65 points in 50 games), Stepan hopes the tutelage from Shattuck-St. Mary’s head coach Tom Ward helps him at the next level.

“Coach [Tom] Ward is amazing. There’s nothing bad to say about him,” Stepan said moments after he was drafted. “He knows how to make you prepare yourself for the next level … He also teaches you that a good hockey player is not only a good hockey player but being a good person off the ice, too, which is really good because if you carry yourself the right way, good things will come to you.

“He wants to make sure you’re doing all the little parts of the game – such as getting the puck out of the zone, considering the time on the clock, where your stick is supposed to be, when a certain guy has the puck. It’s just stuff you wouldn’t think could get you to the next level, but those little things are what gets you to the next level.”

Stepan, whose cousin Derek (another Shattuck alum) plays for the New York Rangers, will be playing with Waterloo of the USHL next season before heading to Ohio State University in the fall of 2013. This comes after Stepan won back-to-back National Championships with Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

On Saturday, a giddy Stepan stated that he was a big Nashville Predators fan due in part because NHL Network is his “best friend at home” in Minnesota.

“I’ve watched them a lot the last two years. Of course I was a big Rangers fan, too – I love watching Derek play – but I’m actually just a big Mike Fisher fan. I love watching him play hockey,” Stepan said. “Now that they do so well, it’s just fun to watch. I’ve always kind of watched them, but with how well they do and how well they did in the playoffs – you kept watching.”

Stepan couldn’t stop raving about his new team. He even mentioned he was excited to be able to visit Nashville because of the country music, barbeque and southern hospitality.

“I feel like I can fit right in as a power forward and work hard like the rest of them do,” he said.

Coming from Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Stepan obviously looks up to fellow alum Parise. It’s not necessarily because Parise graduated from the school, but rather his playing style.

“I like to model my play after him because he looks like he is working his butt off out there all the time, but he can also score big goals and make big plays,” Stepan said of Parise. “That’s who I like to watch – Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise because Coach Ward was the one who helped form them into that type of player I want to be, too.”

As for Crosby?

“He was a Shattuck guy, too, and did leave,” Stepan said. “But one year with Coach, I’m sure he learned some stuff – and then became one of the best players in the freakin’ league.”

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