Stars steered Steen

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Alex Steen didn't get the amount of ice time he was hoping for last season in the Swedish Elite League but his experience with MoDo was invaluable nonetheless.

Among Steen's teammates, thanks to the NHL lockout, were Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik.

"We had a lot of big names and they really taught me a lot," Steen, 21, said. "I learned a lot off the ice and that's what I bring with me now."

The Maple Leafs' annual prospects camp began this week amidst the announcement of a new collective bargaining agreement agreed upon in principle by the NHL and NHL Players' Association. Steen will sign with the Leafs, probably once the CBA is ratified.

The Leafs are excited about the potential of Steen, a centre who not only is a thinker on the ice but has the skills to play in the NHL as well. Whether Steen begins his career in North America under the tutelage of Paul Maurice with the Toronto Marlies or with Pat Quinn and the Maple Leafs will depend on how well he does in training camp.

"The expectations are, 'Let's see how he does,' " Leafs general manager John Ferguson said. "The bottom line is not where he is two weeks from now, but a year, two years from now."

HIGH ON SIDNEY

Quinn recently met phenom Sidney Crosby, and not surprisingly, was impressed.

"Aside from being such a talent, he's quite a young man, a wonderful person," Quinn said. "He has proven at a young age he is the real deal."

BACK TO SCHOOL

The Leafs' top pick in 2003, hulking defenceman John Doherty, is going back to the classroom. Doherty was at the University of New Hampshire last season but left to play for Des Moines of the United State Hockey League. Doherty is slated to attend Quinnipiac University this fall. Because of his switch, Doherty will have to sit out a year and won't play hockey this season. Doherty, picked 57th overall two years ago, is considered a long-term project.


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