The future of Canadian hockey was on display in Toronto last week at the Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp. Forty-two of the top bantam-aged players from across Canada came together for a week of skill-building with mentors like Jason Spezza and Claude Giroux, as well as taking some time to learn about what it takes to succeed in hockey off the ice. With the potential clearly evident among the players who have attended the camp the past three years, it’s not outrageous to say there will be a few NHL All-Stars among the crop.
With that in mind, it’s definitely good news for Regina Pats fans to see Pats prospects at the past two camps. In 2012 it was defenceman Brady Reagan who will be one of the challengers for a 16-year old slot on the Pats 2013-14 roster come Training Camp (August 28th). Last week it was the team’s 2nd Overall pick in the 2013 Bantam Draft, Sam Steel.
The dynamic forward showcased his abilities in the All-Canadians Mentorship Cup, the finale to the week. Steel tallied a goal and an assist in the contest and racked up numerous scoring chances. While the game, televised on TSN2, was a chance for Steel to demonstrate his talent to a wide audience; the value in the camp was mainly from what he was able to learn from the numerous mentors at the camp.
“It was unbelievable,” said Steel looking back on the week. “Being surrounded by the top kids in Canada and the nutritionists, Gary Roberts, and my coach Jason Spezza… I learned a lot. I mean you’re in an environment and want to take in everything you can.”
|Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller|
As a developing player, Steel is smart enough to know the value of the camp wasn’t just limited to the impressive list of mentors involved. He was able to take away something from the 41 other players involved.
“You get to not only play with them, but you get to learn all of the skills and things they have to offer, it’s great… a good learning experience.”
To give the young stars a taste of what it takes to work their way to higher levels, former NHL’er Gary Roberts was at the camp to put the players through his infamous training regimen.
“It definitely is (intense), he pushes you and that’s good, I learned a lot. You can’t just play hockey anymore there are lots of things within the nutrition and training programs you need to know.”
Steel’s coach for the Mentorship Cup was NHL forward Jason Spezza. The Ottawa Senators star was back for his second go-round as a coach and third as a mentor at the camp. Steel took every opportunity to learn from the skilled centre.
“(Spezza) was on the ice for one practice and every time he touched the puck I just watched him to see the little things he did. Just watching him was a learning experience in of itself.”
The Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp is a week that gives some of Canada’s top talent a taste of the big-time and what it will take each of them to reach that goal. A part of being a professional hockey player is the media around the game, and for many of the players it was their first real experience with the media. TSN was on hand filming all week for both the broadcast of the Mentorship Cup and future features which added an education of a different kind.
“It was really cool, the first time I’ve been a part of something like that. The camera is around you almost all day so it was definitely different, but playing at high levels I guess you have to get used to that.”
With the All-Canadians Camp in his rearview mirror, Steel’s attention turns towards preparing for his first WHL training camp with the Regina Pats at the end of August.
“I’m just trying to touch up on my skills and stay in good shape so I can come to Pats camp and do the best I can do. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”
In a summer of new experiences, Steel is looking forward to adding yet another when he steps beyond his age-group at Pats Camp.
“Just playing with all the older guys, I’d say. I haven’t really had that yet. There will be some 20 year olds and vets I can definitely take things and learn from them.”
As a 15-year old, Steel may not be eligible to play for the Pats next season beyond five games as a call-up, but he intends to go into camp to earn the opportunity to suit up for those contests.
“I’m just trying to do the absolute best I can. It doesn’t really make a difference if I can’t make the team this year. I’m just trying to fit in the best I can. I know the Pats are trying to have a better season this year so I hope I impress them so I can get called up for a few games.”
With such a dynamic skill-set, Sam Steel has the potential to accomplish a great many things in his hockey career, but one of his most important traits as a player isn’t necessarily what he can do with the puck. Steel looks at every new opportunity he’s presented as an opportunity to learn, and being a student of the game will bring him a long way as a young player.