I can remember hearing about Sam Steel a few years ago, dating back to him being drafted second overall by the Regina Pats in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In the three years since, Steel has carved out a reputation for himself as a damn fine junior hockey player.
The Calgary Flames have three second round selections in the 2016 NHL Draft – 35th overall, 53rd overall and 55th overall – and Steel could be a good fit with one of those picks.
From Future Considerations:
A flashy, creative forward who plays the game with a ton of skill. A
true puck possession forward that makes his teammates better with
creative passes and a phenomenal understanding of the game. Has a very
effective shot and quick release as well as the ability to maintain
possession of the puck. Needs to get stronger and learn the defensive
aspect of the game but has top line NHL potential.
From Corey Pronman of ESPN:
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.
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
After a 54-point rookie WHL season in 2014-15, Steel increased his production to 70 points over a full 72-game WHL season in 2015-16. When it’s broken down, he had 29 even strength primary points and 53 primary points overall. His even strength primary production was behind such players as Matt Phillips (Victoria), Ty Ronning (Vancouver) and Noah Gregor (Moose Jaw). His overall primary points were lower than Gregor and Phillips.
His offensive production is decent for his age group, but as you can see by the WHL comparables, he’s propped up quite a bit by power-play time.
When you control for estimated ice time (the nice people at Prospect-Stats.com have a tool), he’s behind guys like Cliff Pu, Dillon Dube, Brett Howden, Jordan Kyrou, Matt Phillips and Noah Gregor in terms of scoring per 60 minutes of estimated ice time.
FIT WITH THE FLAMES
For his age group and his position, Steel’s a pretty damn solid all-around center. Based on his size and style of play, he seems rather similar to Morgan Klimchuk in his draft year – though I recall noticing Klimchuk far more in his draft year than I noticed Steel during live viewings.
Functionally, he’s Klimchuk with more demonstrated offensive ability (at his age) but slightly more unevenness in the defensive zone. Klimchuk is still seen as a longer-term prospect by the Flames, as he was brought along rather slowly and surely by the AHL coaching staff. The big question is whether the Flames want to spend a second round selection on a player like Steel that has a skill-set that’s close to what they already have within their organization. They can definitely use the offensive talent, but given that play away from the puck is said to be a reason that Emile Poirier (among others) isn’t an NHLer quite yet, do they want to bring in another guy that will need time to figure that part of the NHL game out?
(It all depends on how much emphasis they put on NHL readiness when they make their draft list this summer.)
Steel is no doubt a player that the Flames are familiar with, and his offensive upside is pretty impressive. The opinion of a few scouts I’ve chatted with over the past couple of seasons is that he’s just scratching the surface of what he can become. That said, he’ll need some work away from the puck and Steel seems like a player that is a couple seasons in the AHL (and a couple of summers in the gym) away from potentially being a solid NHLer.