ANAHEIM – Sam Steel had a year to remember and yet, in the bowels of the Ducks’ practice facility in early September, knows it is time to forget about it.
The leading scorer in all of Canadian major junior hockey was a deserved choice as the Western Hockey League’s player of the year. Steel is in good company as 10 current NHL players have won that award. So has past legends Bobby Clarke, Bernie Federko and Bryan Trottier. As have Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla.
And that’s now history. Now it is time to improve, even in a 50-goal, 131-point campaign.
“You always want to build,” Steel said Friday at Anaheim Ice. “You can’t just be satisfied with the year you had. You always want to get better. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
There is no doubt that Steel stands out as the top prospect in the Ducks’ rookie camp but he’s back at the starting point of another year, being one among other players with NHL dreams as they head to San Jose for the inaugural four-team 2017 Prospect Showcase.
The Ducks face Arizona on Saturday to open their three-game slate, before taking on host San Jose on Sunday and finishing up with a contest against Colorado on Tuesday. There may be games to win but leaving a favorable impression on the watchful eyes of the front office scouts and executives is more vital.
“It’s also about showcasing your skills,” said defenseman Josh Mahura, a talented puck mover the Ducks took in the third round in 2016. “That’s why you’re here. Prove yourself and your worth to be here.
“You’re kind of playing against all your peers right now. Guys at your level all year long. Just going against them and showcasing why you’re here.”
Steel, 19, will be among those closely monitored. His monstrous season with the WHL’s Regina Pats raised hopes and expectations that he could be a center in the Ducks’ lineup sooner rather than later. Being a participant in his first training camp last fall was something he used as a springboard to stardom.
“I don’t want to say it was like a lucky year or anything,” Steel said. “I did put a lot of work in the summer before. Coming into Anaheim helped me a lot. Just seeing how fast the pace is and everything. I tried to take that into junior.
“Some things fell into place. Yeah, it was a good season.”
At this time, Steel is focused on what’s ahead, saying “this is kind of the camp to put your best foot forward.” And that is part of the assignment Dallas Eakins, coach…