Sam Steel finds his game again in a fresh start with the Wild

Steel signed a one-year contract with the Wild in August of 2022. He has since matched his NHL career-high point total.

Sam Steel finds his game again in a fresh start with the Wild

Feature photo: Getty Images

It was not just a change of scenery that helped Sam Steel get his groove back.

After just over three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, the team that drafted him 30th overall in 2016, the Alberta-born forward found himself at a crossroads in his NHL career.

Steel became an unrestricted free agent last July after not receiving a qualifying offer from Anaheim. He signed a one-year contract with the Minnesota Wild on August 30, 2022.

“I wanted to come in looking at it as a fresh slate, trying to get back to my game. In Anaheim, I never really played free or played my game. I was a little hesitant, worrying about making mistakes. When I came here, I wanted to play more freely and play the game I know how to play. They gave me confidence from day one, telling me that’s what they wanted me to do.”

The 25-year-old has made the most of his opportunities, becoming a reliable contributor at both ends of the rink, one of his main objectives ahead of the 2022-23 season.

“It was a great moment,” said Steel, of when he was told he made the team. “You come in and you don’t know exactly what to expect with a new team and how you are going to fit in. Coming to camp and then knowing you have a spot is a great feeling.”

Faith in himself and trusting in his abilities from the start has paid off with a more confident outlook and positive outcomes. In his 49 games with the Wild, Steel has already matched his NHL career high of 22 points.

“I’m just playing with the puck more this year and I’m playing more confidently. Like I said before, not playing to not make mistakes, but going out there and trying to make plays, being solid defensively, and winning battles.”

Steel, who won gold with Canada at the 2018 World Juniors, has used that approach to good effect with the Wild.

Gone are the days of overthinking the game he has always excelled at, including his days with the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats.

“You don’t want to grip the stick too hard and start worrying about negative outcomes … nothing good comes from that. I’m happy I’m at a point where that’s not the mindset. That doesn’t do you any good. Just trying to make plays is a lot more freeing.”

Steel points to his family as a big reason behind his resurgence, especially during the rough patches he has encountered in recent years.

“My family has always been my biggest support source and always believed in me from day one. When things weren’t going great, they were always pushing me and reminding me of what I can do. That was a big thing for me, to be able to grind through it.”

And now that he has, Steel is happier than he has ever been in his hockey life.

Suiting up with the Wild has been an ideal pairing for both team and player.

“It really is for me. Coming in, I was really excited because I had heard nothing but good things about the team, the organization, and the guys. Right from day one, it was clear to see that. It’s been a good fit. I’m still trying to grow every day and get better, but it’s been a great place to play.”