Steen shows finishing kick

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Brit Selby's distinction as the most recent Maple Leaf to win the Calder Trophy is safe for a 40th year.

The National Hockey League rookie race likely will be won by imminent 50-goal shooter Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby runner-up and Ranger netminder Henrik Lundqvist in the mix.

But in a season short on highlights for Toronto, winger Alexander Steen served notice the Leafs can still sniff out first-round talent. He has a shot at 20 goals to become one of the most productive first-year players in the Pat Quinn regime.

His 18th goal and 41st point on Saturday against the Flyers kept him in the top-10 rookie scoring, just ahead of teammate Kyle Wellwood.

But what makes Steen's story remarkable is that he made the jump right from Europe, overcoming the common obstacles such most encounter to play responsible defence and remain an every-game skater.

"Like with any kid, you're scared of getting them in over their heads," Quinn said. "Maybe they can't make it, they lose confidence, go the opposite way and the team is not strong enough to bring them along.

"But Steen made the team for a lot of good reasons: A good training camp and his work ethic. He doesn't have the great scoring touch of the others, but he is a well rounded player.

"There was a little bit of a dip in his play, but that's because young men have to learn that it's 82 games here and not 40 or 50 (in Europe)."

Steen tried to get himself mentally and physically prepared for the NHL grind by taking counsel from his father, Thomas, a 14-year NHLer who logged thousands of air miles as a Winnipeg Jet.

But the younger Steen hit a wall at midseason, before putting together a strong finish that has helped the Leafs gain points in seven consecutive games.

"I've grown as the season has gone on," Steen said. "I developed my game, which was one of my goals coming in. It's been like any hockey season. You have a couple of low spots, but you try and get out of them as quick as possible."

Quinn has no doubts that Alex will make Thomas proud in the future.

'He's just like his dad," Quinn said with a laugh. "Very conscientious and he'll battle you all the way down the ice. We're seeing some second-generation pros come in and some of them are just like their dads. Marcus Nilsson (son of Kent), who we saw the other night, has a lot of skill."

Steve Tambellini's son Jeff is also on that New York Islanders team the Leafs will meet for the third time since March 10 on Thursday.


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