Player Profile: Alex Steen

TMLfans Members’ Scouting Report

Alex Steen is the son of former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen and was born in that city. He spent much of his childhood in the enviable position of being allowed to hang around the rink with his father’s teammates, many of whom he lists as the people who have most influence his life. When Thomas’ playing career drew to a close the family returned to Europe, spending most of their time in Steen’s native Sweden where young Alex began to hone is skills.

By 2001, Alex had earned a position on Västra Frölunda HC of the SEL and was selected 24th overall in the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played another two years with Frölunda, followed by a one year stint with MODO before arrive in at the Leafs’ camp immediately after the lockout. During this time he also represented Sweden in the World Junior Under 18 Championships and then twice in the World Junior Championships. He has since played (once, in 2007) for their National Team, but was forced to decline their invitation to be part of the 2008 team due to a lingering injury from his NHL season. He will likely continue to be a regular member of their national roster for many years to come.

Steen cracked the Maple Leafs roster directly out of camp in 2005. In his rookie season he scored 18 goals and totaled 45 points, paired mostly with fellow rookie Matt Stajan. In the two seasons since then his scoring production has fallen off a little (35 pts in 2006-07, 42 pts in 2007-08), but that can be largely attributed to Paul Maurice’s development decision to use him primarily in a shut-down/defensive role where he saw very limited powerplay time . When the Leafs’ injury situation saw Alex elevated to the top line and given regular powerplay shifts towards the end of the 2007-08 season, there was a noticeable boost to his production.

Steen, a natural center, has been used as a left winger for the Leafs. He possesses excellent speed, great acceleration, and is a very intelligent player who seems to have embraced his role as a two-way player, making him a very valuable asset on both sides of the puck. At this (still-early) stage in his development he is able to play in any situation, against any type of opposition, and acquit himself remarkably well.

He is not shy about playing a physical game when necessary, using his speed to quickly close on a player and then relying on his size and strength to contain him. He is becoming very good along the boards and is able to cycle down low and protect the puck against larger defencemen for much longer periods of time than he was able to in the past.

Some suggest that Alex’s greatest “problem” at present is that he is too cautious. thinks too much, and is too committed to the defensive side of the puck. While he has excellent vision and top level passing skills, he tends to make only the “safe” play and this has limited his offensive potential thus far (though it has also likely endeared him to his coaches). He will also sometimes miss an opportunity by over-analyzing the situation before making the play, by which time the other team will often have recovered their positioning. Fortunately, he will also recognize this and make a safe play rather than trying to force a play that no longer exists.

Steen has taken regular shifts on the Leafs’ penalty killing units for the last couple of years and is also frequently relied upon to match up at even strength against the other team’s top line where his defensive positioning and great anticipation have allowed him to excel. He has a strong work ethic and very rarely takes a shift off.

With the team now in a rebuilding phase and with three solid years of honing his defensive and two-way skills under his belt, Leafs fans are hoping that he may finally be given the opportunity to assert himself in a more offensive role — perhaps on the first line — this year where he can gain some confidence and more consistently demonstrate the scoring flair of which, to date, we’ve only seen the occasional glimpse.

Having spent three years in a stall immediately adjacent to Mats Sundin’s stall in the dressing room, Alex has also begun to show signs of leadership and many suspect that he will be one of the players given the “A” to wear this season. Several of our members believe he has future captain potential. Our members rate him as one of the more valuable assets on the roster and believe that he will be part of the core of the Maple Leafs roster for many years to come.

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