Steen's ready to wing it

Alexander Steen (left) is seen with Darryl Sittler after being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs...

Alexander Steen (left) is seen with Darryl Sittler after being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the NHL Entry Draft in 2002. (Toronto Sun File Photo/David Lucas)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

This slick-skating Swede is one keen Steen.

With the start of training camp just 11 days away, Alexander Steen, the Maple Leafs' first-round pick in the 2002 entry draft, is eager to show the hockey world that his time has come to make the jump to the parent club.

Don't mistake his confidence for arrogance. He knows he'll have to earn everything he gets.

"You have to have the mentality going into this that you are going to make the team," the 21-year-old Steen said yesterday after participating in a lively game of shinny at Lakeshore Lions Arena.

"Playing on a team with Mats (Sundin) would be great."

Even if it means shifting from centre, his natural position, to the wing? Given the presence of Sundin, Eric Lindros and Jason Allison up the middle, it's a move Steen might have to make in order to land a spot with the blue and white.

"Of course," he said. "I played the wing for much of last year. If they want to play me there, I have no problem with that."

General manager John Ferguson is aware of Steen's enthusiasm concerning making the team. At the same time, there is always the danger of pushing the kid too fast.

"The expectations are: 'Let's see how he does,' " Ferguson said earlier this summer. "The bottom line is not where he is two weeks from now, but a year, two years from now."

Alexander, the son of former Winnipeg Jets centre Thomas Steen, spent the past season toiling for the star-studded Modo team of the Swedish Elite League, one which featured marquee names such as Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins.

With so many elite players on his squad, Steen quickly found his playing time eroding as the season wore on.

He readily admits his stats -- 17 points in 50 games -- could have been better.

"It wasn't really what I expected," he said. "My ice time during the second half was pulled back. But being around guys like Peter and Markus was a great experience.They are all great guys and I learned a lot."

In preparing for his first real NHL audition, Steen spent the past summer bulking up by adding about seven pounds to his 5-foot-11 frame to 190 pounds. Whether the extra beef will be enough for him to meet the constant expectations of demanding Leafs fans remains to be seen.

"The pressure of playing inToronto is not just on me, it's on everybody," he said. "Toronto is a great city and a great place to play."

And should he fail in his bid to make the Leafs, he plans on playing for the American Hockey League Marlies rather than returning to Sweden. At least, in this case, he'd still be in Toronto.

"This is the next step, playing on North American-sized ice," he said.


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