Alex Steeves’ journey to the pro ranks was by no means a certainty after being passed on in the 2018 NHL draft.
In the end, however, the product of Bedford, N.H., says the adversity of going undrafted helped him become the player he is today.
“I think it gave me a little bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Steeves said to a group of reporters on Tuesday.
And that means he would have wound up in pro hockey, whether drafted or not.
“I have a lot of self-belief. And even if I had that micro-success of being drafted, I would have stayed the course and trained in the same way.”
Despite that early career setback, Steeves is reaching the home stretch of what has been a successful rookie season in professional hockey, having become a key contributor for the playoff-hopeful Toronto Marlies.
Assistant Coach A.J. MacLean had nothing but glowing reviews of the 22-year-old prospect and what he brought to the club.
“His willingness to work at his game has been really good,” MacLean said, after a game-day skate on Tuesday. “He’s come in his first year … and he’s really bought in and worked hard at our development plan.”
Steeves has 17 goals and 19 assists in 36 games, ranking him third amongst Marlies skaters in points.
In addition to his contributions at the American Hockey League level, Steeves has also had the chance to make his mark on the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing in a trio of games during a December home stretch.
That opportunity only reaffirmed his belief in himself that he could make it on the biggest stage.
Meantime, while still developing with the Marlies, it’s been a year of adjustments as Steeves continues to progress towards his goal of being an NHL regular. That includes making the jump from his days playing for the University of Notre Dame to the pro ranks.
“It’s a busier schedule, more game-oriented, so it feels like a longer season,” he said, comparing the two levels. “Away from the ice, I have a lot more time on my hands because I don’t have any homework, so finding ways to stay busy has also been an adjustment.”
To top it off, the Marlies winger has also had to make the jump in the midst of a global pandemic. That compounded a layer of uncertainty to much of the team’s day-to-day happenings, especially early in the season.
Despite that, Steeves thinks that the team has still found to be a cohesive unit.
“I think the amount of communication and the strength of our friendships allows us to gel as people and then you hope that translates onto the ice.” he says.