A player who has been flirting with first-round bona fides, but ultimately comes in as 37th overall ranked player in our consensus rankings, is Edmonton native and Regina Pats centre Sam Steel.
Regarded as a smaller and shiftier centre, who possesses elite playmaking abilities and hockey sense. If Steel is still available in the early parts of the second round, I won’t be surprised to hear of a few teams looking to trade up to select the young pivot.
- Age: 18, 1998-02-03
- Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
- Frame: 5’11”, 176 lbs.
- Position: C
- Handedness: L
- Draft Year Team: Regina Pats
- Accomplishments/Awards: 2015/16 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Ivan Hlinka Memorial Gold Medal (15/16)
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Sam Steel is an elusive, smallish center with exceptional hockey IQ and offensive creativity. Steel possesses elite on-ice vision and situational awareness which, when combined with his high-end speed, gives defenders fits when trying to shut him down. He has the ability to stickhandle in tight spaces through traffic, or under pressure from checkers, and he can thread the needle to his open wingers at anytime. Steel has a deceptively hard and accurate shot, which he could stand to use more of, and he has a penchant for scoring big goals 5-on-5. His defensive game still needs refinement but he is a capable backchecker and penalty killer, and displays leadership qualities on and off the ice. Steel continues to need to grow and get stronger to make the best of his tools but as he does he may become an even more dominant offensive player.
After being a second overall pick in his bantam class, Steel underwhelmed at times this season but was pretty impressive overall. He’s got above-average to top-end skating, hands and hockey IQ. He can play the game with a quick tempo and shows the ability to make defenders miss with his feet and hands, while also showing the vision to create for others. Steel is not one-dimensional, and he has shown decent defensive prowess by being an effective penalty killer for his junior team and for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. One downgrade for Steel was a notable inconsistency in terms of his offensive play.
Steel made immediate noise in the WHL after Regina made him the second overall pick in 2013, placing among the leaders in scoring categories, and bridging his team’s rebuilding gap. He’s part of an impressive group of 1998-born draft eligibles to come out of Western Canada, and some might say he’s at or near the top of an impressive list of WHL forwards. Steel is an excellent scorer from the center ice position, with the smarts to augment an elite finesse game. He’s very good around the net, using his quick hands and keen vision to create multiple opportunities without the benefit of time or space. Slight of frame, Steel relies on his first-step quickness and acceleration to distance himself from opposing checkers. He keeps his head up as he blasts through the neutral zone, cutting, curling and shifting in order to maintain possession. He doesn’t like to get hit, but plays a feisty enough game to get involved as long as he doesn’t have to pay a heavy price along the boards.
A power play specialist with a penchant for delivering in the clutch, Steel has a very good shot that he wires hard off the pass or off his back foot. He simply doesn’t use it enough, but he gets a mulligan when you consider he uses common sense more than constantly deferring to the shot or pass on first impulse. He plays in all situations and can be groomed as a realistic two-way option for the pivot.
The 2nd overall pick in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, Steel maybe one of the lowest risk/reward players simply because he possesses all the attributes that translate to the NHL. He has NHL calibre skating, and not just simply the speed that is needed, his edge work and stop/starts are something that he already does quite well. He also has the explosive acceleration to separate himself from his opposition.
As Aynsley Scott mentions above, Steel’s hockey IQ is his trademark. He is someone constantly looking around to try and find seams in coverage, and if he is unable to do so, he makes those seams.
With Steel’s goals and assists from this past season broken down, what sticks out is how consistent he was throughout the season. He had three separate three point games, but otherwise he was consistent in his output of one to two points per game. Generally you will see big offensive games from junior players, where they put up four or five points in one night, or go on a tear for a handful of games that may skew their output. That is not the case for Steel, he was steady throughout the entire season.
On the flip side, he only had two separate occasions of three games, and then three occasions of two games where he was held pointless. He would then rebound and continue on his way. This is further evidenced by the P/GP chart:
Aside from the first handful of games and then around the 50 game mark, which is one of the three game pointless streaks, there were no major peaks or valleys to his offensive output. That kind of consistency is very attractive when looking at a players season.
The Sherwood Park native was ranked 5th amongst draft eligible WHL players, behind only Matthew Philips, Dillon Dube, Noah Gregor, and Simon Stransky. He ended the season with 53 primary points, which was ranked third behind the aforementioned Philips and Gregor. Those 53 points made up 76.8% of his offensive output.
When looking at his NHL comparables, there were 107 matches and 33.64% of them went onto being NHL regulars. Some of his most successful comparable players were Scott Gomez, Russ Courtnall, Brendan Morrow, and Geoff Sanderson.
Although it has been mentioned that he is on the smaller side, he does measure in at 5’11” and 176 lbs. If he can add 15-20 pounds, then size won’t be an issue. Steel also tries to make sure to not put himself in a situation where he smaller stature is an issue.
Seeing Steel as the 30th ranked North American skater is a bit surprising given the skill-set he possesses.
There is obvious reasoning why Steel has been in the conversation for a late first round pick, and it will not be surprising to see him selected late on day one of the draft or very early in the second round.