He was either speechless or wasn’t sure what to say, but Pats head coach John Paddock was certainly surprised Sam Steel was cut from the Canada’s World Junior team Wednesday night.
“He has been, if not the top player in our league this year, he has to be in the very tight small mix of it,” Paddock said.
Steel is having a standout season in the WHL, sitting at or near the top of the points standings all season. Right now he’s tied for second with 48.
This spring, he was taken in the first round of the NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks.
“It’s tough right now. I’m sure I’ll get through it and hopefully learn from it,” Steel told TSN Wednesday after the cuts came down. “I thought I played a decent game, it’s just (there are) a lot of great players here.”
At just 18, Steel will likely get another shot at making the team next year, though Paddock said anything could happen between then and now.
“Well that’s just the logical thing, but maybe he tweaks his knee on December 10th next year,” Paddock said. “I don’t know what he’s thinking right now, but I know he’s not thinking (about next year).”
But Paddock also said he’s confident Steel will be okay.
“I don’t know what I would say to him but I do think what he’s been through in his life, this isn’t as big as an obstacle as the other stuff, he’s going to be fine.”
For teammate Connor Hobbs, having both Steel and Austin Wagner – who was cut on Tuesday – back in the lineup is bittersweet.
“I feel bad for those two guys, I was really rooting for them to make this team but, with saying that, it sure helps us out a lot with them coming back,” Hobbs said.
The Pats play an important home and home series against the Moose Jaw Warriors this weekend before getting an extended Christmas break.
Game one is Friday night in Moose Jaw. The Pats return to Regina for the second game on Saturday.