2015-16 Team: Regina Pats (#23)
Date of Birth: February 3, 1998
Place of Birth: Sherwood Park, AB
Ht: 5’10” Wt: 175 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 first-year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking: 36th (June)
- THW Alternate: 37th (June)
- THW War Room: 48th (May)
- Future Considerations: unranked (June)
- ISS: unranked (June)
- Bob McKenzie: 41st (June)
- Craig Button: 56th (June)
Sam Steel is a really interesting prospect in a lot of different ways. He was selected by the Regina Pats second overall in the 2013 Western Hockey League’s Bantam Draft after tearing up the Edmonton-area minor hockey circuit for years. (Tyler Benson went first overall that year.) After making his full-time WHL debut in 2014-15 season and scoring at just shy of a point-per-game pace, he maintained that pace this season.
That said, after being a supremely impressive prospect at lower levels and dominating every league he’d played in, Steel has plateaued somewhat in the WHL. Compared to someone like 2017 prospect Nolan Patrick, Steel hasn’t continued to progress offensively despite getting lots of ice-time and strong line-mates to learn from in Regina during his tenure there.
That said, he’s still a strong hockey player at the WHL level. Blessed with strong hockey sense and situational awareness, Steel is rarely caught out of position and has a good sense of where to be (and where his teammates will be) almost all of the time. Sometimes it seems like the pressure of game situations does get to him, though, as on occasion during key times he’ll press too hard and make bad passes or shots from bad angles. He also struggles with game-to-game consistency at times; in some games he’s the best player on the ice, in others he’s hardly noticeable.
Based on his career to-date, it’s hard to write off Steel as an NHL prospect. He’s shown a great ability to learn and adapt, and his intelligence is such that he should be able to adjust to the rigors of higher levels of hockey – it’s taken him a bit in the WHL because he’s not a huge kid and because the WHL is a much better league that he’s used to. Steel’s a versatile, adaptable player that makes his teammates better. He might not become a slap-dunk, point-per-game player in the NHL, but his skill-set is such that he’ll be a valuable commodity for whichever team picks him up in the draft. He’s probably not a cornerstone player, but he projects as a very useful complementary asset.
NHL Draft Projection:
Steel is likely to go anywhere from the late first round to the middle of the second round.
Sam Steel is a misunderstood prospect. He projects as a cerebral #2C, who has seen misplaced criticism because he’s not overly flashy.
— DraftBuzz Hockey (@draftbuzzhockey) April 14, 2016
#WHL: Regina C Sam Steel (Ranked No. 25) continues to smack around WHL comp in February. Has 1-1-2 tonight, 16 pts in 10 games this month
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) February 25, 2016
- Has very good situational awareness in all three zones.
- Effective passer.
- Quick, accurate shooter.
- Fantastic name.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Needs to add some muscle to his frame so he can battle in the corners.
- Doesn’t play particularly mean.
- Needs to be more consistent from game to game.
- Occasionally tries too hard to make plays, which can lead to risky decisions and bad turnovers.
Steel has a projected ceiling as a second-or-third line center at the NHL level. Cody Eakin and Alex Killorn are likely decent comparables for him.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 3.5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive 8/10, Defensive 7/10
Steel represented Canada at the Under-17s (with Canada Black) and the Ivan Hlinka memorial tournament. He won a gold medal at the Hlinkas.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.