Sam Steel is staying focused on the moment instead of what’s to come.
Four years ago, Steel joined the Regina Pats set to become the face of the franchise. He has more than lived up to those expectations.
Now, with the Memorial Cup just days away, he may be able to put the crown jewel on his time in a Pats jersey by winning the CHL championship.
“It would be unbelievable,” the 20-year-old captain said after practice on Tuesday. “It’s the peak of junior hockey and not many people get to have their name on that trophy … we’re dialed in right now and focused on doing whatever it takes to get that.”
It’s been a long five weeks of focus for this Regina Pats team who was bounced from the playoffs early by the Swift Current Broncos.
The Broncos, for their part, went on to win the WHL Championship last Sunday.
“They’re a good team but we know we can play with them,” Steel said of their WHL rivals.
The Pats took the Broncos to a full seven-game series and losing that game by just one goal. The two teams won’t square off against each other again until Wednesday – the last game before the semi-finals – and the stakes will be high for at least one of the two teams.
“They’re playing their best hockey right now, obviously, so we have got to step into the tournament flying.”
Fortunately, flying – on the ice at least – is something that Steel is pretty comfortable with. Steel notched 83 points this year after earning the league’s top scoring award in the 2016-17 season with 131. His talents saw him drafted in the 30th overall in the first round of the NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks.
Steel was already crowned a champion once this year.
He was part of the Canadian team that captured gold at the World Junior Championships. Steel scored four goals and five assists in the tournament including an assist in the gold medal game against Sweden.
“I definitely think (the World Juniors) helped me get ready for just the short term competition and (with how) every game matters,” Steel said.
“They’re pinnacles of junior hockey, these two tournaments, so to be able to play in both of them in one year is a huge honour.”
It’s a fitting end for a player who gave his entire junior career to the Pats franchise. Steel will technically have one more year of WHL eligibility, but he’s not expected to return to Regina next season. Instead, he has the start of his pro career ahead of him – though that’s the last thing on his mind right now.
“I’m just focusing on doing whatever I can to help the team win the Memorial Cup. I don’t want to get caught up thinking about the past … this is the biggest hockey I’ve ever played in a Pats uniform.”
The puck drops on that big hockey event on Friday.