Clayton Keller

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Coyotes expect Stepan to be ‘true number-one center’

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Derek Stepan is 27 years old and has played over 500 games in the NHL.

Though he has never registered more than 57 points in a single season, the Arizona Coyotes believe he’s the big piece they’ve been looking for.

“We are thrilled to acquire Derek,” said GM John Chayka after Friday’s trade with the Rangers. “Our organization has been searching for a true number-one center for over a decade and we are confident that he can be that for us.”

Chayka is absolutely right that the Coyotes haven’t had great centers for a while now. Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal were fine players for them, but Jeremy Roenick was their last elite center, and he’s been gone since 2001.

But is it fair to expect Stepan to be a true number one?

Well, the Rangers were reportedly concerned his game was on the decline. And at 27, his prime years are probably behind him.

Also consider the bar for number-one centers in the NHL. It’s Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, Nicklas Backstrom, and a few others who rate higher than Stepan.

One could even make the argument that the Rangers never won the Stanley Cup with Stepan because they never had an elite number-one center while he was there. (No disrespect to Brad Richards, but his game was on the decline when he signed in New York.)

So, no, it’s not fair to expect Stepan to be a true number-one center, even if he’s deployed like one next season.

The real hope for a number-one center in Arizona is with Christian Dvorak, Dylan Strome, and Clayton Keller.

In the meantime, Stepan will have to do.

USA routs Slovakia to win fifth in a row at World Championships

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Just one day after needing to rally past Latvia, Team USA left little doubt on Sunday and played perhaps their most complete game of the World Championships in a 6-1 rout over Slovakia.

The win is the fifth in a row for the United States and has them sitting atop Group A with 15 points.

They have one game remaining in the opening round and that will come on Tuesday when they take on Russia. Russia, which plays Latvia on Monday, is one point back in the group standings.

Johnny Gaudreau led the way for the United States on Sunday with a pair of goals and an assist, giving him a team-leading nine points so far in the tournament.

Arizona Coyotes youngsters Clayton Keller and Christian Dvorak also each contributed a goal in the win. Keller, the the Coyotes’ first-round pick in 2016, has been one of the standings out for Team USA in the tournament and has already scored five goals.

Sunday’s game also continued what has been a miserable tournament for Slovakia. Its only win of the tournament was an overtime win against Italy in its tournament opener. In the five games (all losses) since they have been outscored 22-7.

WATCH LIVE: USA versus Italy, World Hockey Championship

Team USA will look for a third straight win today when it takes on Italy at the World Hockey Championship, and you can watch the game on the NBCSports.com platform.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

The Americans, coming off a 4-3 win over Sweden on Monday, have seemingly found their stride offensively after a disappointing 2-1 loss to host Germany in their opener. Led by the offensive exploits of Clayton Keller and Johnny Gaudreau, the U.S. has scored 11 times in its last two contests.

The Italians, meanwhile, are looking for their first win of the tourney. They were bested 3-2 by Slovakia in their opener, then pounded 10-1 by Russia in their second game.

On Tuesday, Italy fell 2-1 to Latvia.

Gaudreau scores twice, Howard stands tall as U.S. beats Sweden

After a shaky start to the 2017 World Hockey Championship, the Americans have found their stride.

Team USA scored its second straight victory on Monday, beating Sweden 4-3 in an entertaining affair. Calgary star Johnny Gaudreau scored twice for the Americans while Detroit’s Jimmy Howard was terrific in goal, making 39 saves.

Playing on a line with Jack Eichel and Anders Lee, Gaudreau has been solid this tournament and now has four points through three games. He and the U.S. offense have really put things together since a 2-1 loss to Germany in the opener — the Americans have scored 11 goals over their last two contests.

J.T. Compher notched the game-winner today, while Clayton Keller — who notched a hat trick in a 7-2 win over Denmark on Sunday — found the back of the net yet again.

The Swedes were led by Elias Lindholm, who scored twice, while Bolts blueliner Victor Hedman added a single. This marked Sweden’s second loss of the tourney, having lost 2-1 to Russia in the opener.

Related: Landeskog knocks Schmaltz from game with questionable hit

WATCH LIVE: U.S. versus Sweden, World Hockey Championship

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After a 7-2 shellacking of Denmark yesterday, the Americans will look for their second straight win at the World Hockey Championship this afternoon against Sweden.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE (Puck drop is at 2:15 p.m. ET)

Arizona rookie Clayton Keller starred for the U.S. on Saturday, scoring a hat trick and capturing player of the game honors. Isles forward Anders Lee netted a pair, while Isles teammate Brock Nelson and Calgary winger Johnny Gaudreau each had singles.

Sweden figures to be a much bigger test than the Danes, however. It beat up on Germany on Saturday by a similar 7-2 scoreline. William Nylander led the way with two goals, while Gabriel Landeskog, Victor Rask, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonas Brodin and Linus Omark chipped in with one.