College Hockey

Maple Leafs Sign NCAA FA Alex Steeves

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced that they have signed Alex Steeves of the University of Notre Dame to a three-year entry-level contract.

Who is Alex Steeves

Alex Steeves is fairly young for an NCAA signing at 21 years old. Steeves went the NCAA route early after a stellar draft year campaign in the USHL still saw him go undrafted. By midseason of his freshman year, Steeves was pretty much a lock to get drafted his second time around. He’d accumulated six goals and two assists in 20 games in a league where he was playing against guys much older than he was…

And then he finished the season off with a singular goal in 19 games. The man once expected to go around the 4th round had instead gone undrafted.

Someone forgot to explain the concept of a “sophomore slump” to Steeves, though. The next season, he ended up leading Notre Dame in points in what was just his second NCAA year. 

This year, though, cemented Steeves’ NCAA stardom. In his junior year, Steeves had 15 goals for 32 points in 29 games. That is 7 more goals and 7 more points than anyone else on his team. Those numbers put him top 10 in the entire NCAA in goals and points… at 21 years old. Pretty much everyone near him in age and production was picked in the NHL draft.

After that, Steeves decided that it was clear that he could go pro.

Alex Steeves Scouting Report

Now that we’ve established how Steeves got here, what does he bring to the table?

One thing that stands out to me immediately: His shot.

This guy can absolutely rip the puck! He could definitely become a great goalscorer. He’s able to shoot very well, whether it’s from the point or from the slot. More importantly, he understands when he needs to shoot it. He picks his spots wisely and it pays off for him.

Steeves is also a creative player offensively. He has good stickhandling abilities and he’s able to carry the puck until he gets the chance he desires.

What I also like about Steeves that will be useful at the NHL level is his ability to go to the net. He’s a very solid net-front presence and he isn’t afraid to dig in for loose pucks around the net. Steeves is also deceptive enough to the point where he can get past opposing defenses almost undetected and wait for a pass that gives him a high-quality chance around the net.

I would consider Alex Steeves to be more of a goalscorer than a playmaker, but the ability to make plays is there. He has great vision and crisp passes. However, his target is generally to get pucks to the net rather than to get them to a teammate. It’s probably a product of his role, but I wonder if that changes at the professional level (it’s not a bad thing, though, just something I noticed).

Instead, a lot of Steeves’ assists come from him trying to score. Whether it’s deflections or his teammates cleaning up rebounds, Steeves makes sure that his shots deliver some sort of quality chance to score. He’s become good at setting up teammates with his shots and he also finds success by using his goalscoring reputation to his advantage, sometimes faking the shot to deliver a teammate a great chance.

Something to note: I know Alex Steeves has played centre before, and I know some outlets have him listed as a centre now. However, I’m fairly sure that Steeves has played most of this year as a right-winger, and that’s where he’s found his success. I’m sure the door isn’t closed for a return to centre down the road. However, I believe that he will begin his professional career as a right wing.

Defensively, Steeves’ isn’t bad! He’s another Leaf prospect who shows intensity without the puck. He puts effort into getting the puck back from the other team and it’s something that I think will help him a lot in the pros.

He’s also not afraid to get physical. I’m not saying that he’s going to become a bone-crushing hitter in the NHL. Instead, he’s not afraid to get dirty even though his game involves more offense, flash, and creativity.

One thing that I think Steeves could do to improve is to pick his spots to dangle wisely. I found that a lot of his giveaways/errors come from him trying to be a little too fancy. That aspect of his game reminds me of something that Leafs star Mitch Marner suffers through at times. If Steeves is able to be more consistent with his creativity, then I think he’ll be an absolute treat to watch.

Alex Steeves doesn’t come off to me as a prospect with a huge issue that needs to be corrected. Instead, I think he’s a player that the Leafs will try to develop all-around and get him ready for the NHL.

At 21 years old, he has time. I would say that his ceiling could be as a middle-six scorer in the NHL if all goes to plan.

The Fit

This contract starts in 2021-22, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we see Alex Steeves with the Marlies on an amateur tryout very soon. The team will like to see how he does at the professional level before they figure out what his next steps will be.

I think that it’s possible that Steeves could step into the AHL game with some success. However, I think we see Steeves rotate into the Marlies bottom-six for the rest of the season and then they’ll send him down to the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL next year to start the season.

I’m just thinking back to what they’ve done with some other signings. With most late-season ATOs, they give that player a couple of games in the AHL. If they decide to re-sign that player, they usually let them rise from the ECHL. This is something they did to the last player that they signed out of the NCAA: Joseph Duszak. Duszak starred in the ECHL with the Growlers and worked his way up to the AHL with the Marlies, who he’s playing with now. This is likely a path that they want from Alex Steeves.

With Steeves, the Leafs have acquired another young, promising prospect for their pool. Alex Steeves has the potential to be an absolute steal for the Leafs. If not… it doesn’t really matter! Getting these guys without spending assets is another great way for this team to continue to replenish its promising prospect pool.

I look forward to seeing how Alex Steeves does in Toronto, and I wouldn’t be shocked if we hear his name more and more in the coming years.

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Spencer White is an Editor of Hockey at Overtime Heroics. He writes about hockey, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies, Newfoundland Growlers, and the Toronto Six. You can find him on Twitter at @FreeNylander, @MagicianMarner, and @LeafsMoves.