Steen is rarin' to go

With a few months of reflection, Maple Leafs forward Alex Steen said he looks back positively on...

With a few months of reflection, Maple Leafs forward Alex Steen said he looks back positively on his freshman campaign. (Toronto Sun File/Ernest Doroszuk)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

No visits with captain Mats Sundin, no travelling to exotic destinations, not much of anything.

Alex Steen happily acknowledged yesterday he holed up at his place in Sweden during the summer with little else on his mind than getting in tune for his sophomore season in the National Hockey League.

"I feel I am a lot better prepared mentally for this year than I was a year ago, even though I was mentally ready then," Steen said after a workout at Lakeshore Lions Arena with a group of other Maple Leafs and some members of the Toronto Marlies. "Most of it has been for an 82-game season (after having gone through it once). The experience of last season has been a big help."

With a few months of reflection, Steen said he looks back positively on his freshman campaign. In 75 games, Steen, who turned 22 in March, recorded 18 goals and 27 assists, with half of those goals coming during power plays. Though he showed plenty of promise -- enough that general manager John Ferguson reportedly refused to include him in a deal with the Edmonton Oilers that could have landed Chris Pronger -- Steen at times found the rigors of the NHL schedule somewhat tough.

Steen had not played more than 50 games in a season back home before becoming a regular in Toronto.

"I'll know now what it feels like when my body hits Game 46 and Game 72," Steen said. "I'll make sure I schedule myself a little better, know when to push myself a little harder and know when to rest a little bit more.

"It's not that I was tired. You go through slumps and I felt I did a pretty good job of battling through them. Toward the end of the season, it started getting better again. It was a fun learning experience."

Though some Europe-based players would rather stay in their native land for as long as possible before training camp, Steen has been skating in Toronto for the past 10 days, and already has stitches on his chin where he was cut by a puck.

With Sundin and Mike Peca cemented as the Leafs' top two centres, expect to see Steen remain on the wing. But it's possible new coach Paul Maurice will give Steen a look at his natural position of centre. No matter, with the start of camp still more than two weeks away, Steen sounds like he wants to start now.

"I have a lot of goals, but the main one is just to keep going what I started last year," Steen said. "I can't wait to put my skates on the ice and hear the crowd cheer again."


Videos

Photos