Alex Steeves lands at #14 in this year's Maple Leafs Top 25 Under 25, down two spots from last year.

Having finished his second pro season where he once again jumped up to the NHL to fill in for three games with the Maple Leafs, Steeves still spent most of his time with the Toronto Marlies where he played in 65 games, scoring 19 goals (only five were on a power play) and earning 32 assists; totals similar to his 2021-22 season.

Steeves is now 23 years old, and will turn 24 in December. He has slotted in both at left and right wing on the Marlies as needed. He was never drafted to the NHL, so in the fall of 2019 he went to Indiana to play NCAA hockey for the University of Notre Dame, which was certainly a wild time to enter college with his first year there almost totally consumed by the pandemic, though by 2021 NCAA hockey was back up and running again. He was a teammate there with Leafs prospect Max Ellis who did not make our T25U25 list, but did get two votes so made it as an honourable mention.

Steeves is now reaching the generally expected peak level of development age for a player. There's always outliers for that timeline of course, but on average what one is at that age is what you can expect a player to be for their career, and I think this reflects in the rank change. Steeves' 2022-23 season largely replicated the one from the past year.

But does that mean he can't have an NHL career? I think he can, but the question is "where?"

"Sour cream! He's smooth, but dangerous when left open." I have to assume that Todd Crocker spends his entire off-season coming up with new lines like this.

Alex Steeves Vitals
Age as of July 1 23.56
Position C/Wing
Height 6'
Weight (lbs) 196
Shoots L
Draft Year Undrafted
Draft Number

When you see Steeves in person he is an impressively big guy. While not super tall in stature, he has a huge thick build. Indeed, when you look through game photo archives you most often see him like in the one I put up for the headline: right in front of the net in the spot where you take the most physical abuse from other players, and where you must be able to hold your ground at all costs because when the puck does come to the net you are the one who needs to force it through. He can give back what he takes in punishment there.

He's also very eloquent talking about the game, which I often see with the NCAA players, but he's in that top group that really knows how to break things down and give succinct but detailed insights into what happened and why. His hockey smarts remind me a lot of Connor Carrick, whom anyone that has worked Marlies games would tell you was brilliant at that too. If anything, I think Steeves actually has a future in hockey coaching.

The Votes

Voter Vote
adam 13
Brian 19
Hardev 17
Cathy 13
Catch-67 17
Species 12
dhammm 14
Zone Entry 14
bballgordie 12
The Bag 15
Weighted Average 14.6
Max Vote 19
Min Vote 12

Of the six who voted in last seasons' ranking, four dropped him down from the prior season. Keep in mind that is with several would-be eligible players above him either traded away or graduating off the list because they turned 25, so he by default would have moved up, meaning instead moving down two spots is significant.

I was actually one of two who actually ranked him higher than I did last season (when I had him at 13). I do see so much potential there with Steeves, from his hockey smarts to his physical size and athleticism. I believe he could prove himself a regular bottom-six NHL player if he had such an opportunity, though it does require he steps up to that challenge quickly this season when or if it is offered. He's got to be on fire right out of the gate because other prospects like Nick Robertson are sitting there waiting to do the same.

Here's what the rest of our voters think.

Brian: Seems like a classic AAAA player, who is very good in the AHL and can fill in for spot injury replacement spots in the NHL now and then, but won’t be a consistent NHL guy.

dhammm: Abruzzese and Steeves put together similar years in the AHL, and while Abruzzese reportedly has fewer warts in his game, Steeves is a little younger, taller, and faster. This was enough for him to eke out a higher rank from me personally in an egg-sorting exercise, but they’re in the same tier of angling for call-up opportunities.

Catch-67: I’ve never really been much of a fan of Steeves, for whatever reason. That said, I think he’s quite a good player for the Marlies to have, and he’s capable of filling in if the Leafs need an extra winger in a pinch. That’s not bad at all, all things considered.

Cathy: Alex Steeves landed in my muddy middle ground where I had a lot of trouble ranking players. He’d be in the NHL full time, just like Joey Anderson, on the right team. That team is not the Leafs, but that doesn’t change who he is. He is a tolerable callup, a good enough player if you aren’t asking your fourth line to do anything tricky – and at some point the meeting is going to go down where Sheldon Keefe hears how he’s playing Brad Treliving’s boo Ryan Reaves every game. So tricky is out of fashion on the Leafs fourth line. Whoever claims Steeves on waivers a next year is gonna play him.

The Bag: Alex Steeves is about half a year younger than Nick Abruzzese, and the two just had very similar (at least, superficially) AHL seasons. Steeves is probably right now replacement level in the NHL, + or - some small amount. Every player above Steeves in my ranking is either younger or has played more NHL games.

Zone Entry: Steeves seems… fine? But I can’t shake the feeling he’s destined to play 112 games over three seasons for Vancouver before vanishing forever.

Hardev: I was a little surprised we didn’t see any of him last year after his brief stint the year before. He won’t be anything more than a fourth liner, but that’s also more than most of the prospects up to this point will be. As Cathy said, there’s a whole host of players who can play on duds like Montreal, Ottawa, and Anaheim but won’t make the Leafs. Steeves is there, and when he makes another team’s bad roster it won’t be a disgrace that he didn’t do it on the Leafs. The Leafs *should* be icing better players than guys who can make the Blue Jackets fourth line. He has energy, he plays the system well enough, he’s serviceable. I wish I could like him more than that, but, you know.

So we are left with the question. Is Alex Steeves one of those "AAA+" players who come and go from the Marlies, like Seth Griffith, and have a career as a perpetual AHL star but never really cracks an NHL team lineup for more than a cup of coffee, or is he already an actual bottom-six caliber NHL player who has simply hit a wall here in Toronto because of roster circumstances that are beyond his control? This is where the uncertainty lies as he's still exempt from waivers, so moving into the NHL immediately would probably have to happen with a trade.

Steeves' ranking is also reflective of newcomers to the Leafs from the draft shooting up the ranks while he's standing still, so not a sign he's getting worse, but a mark in time that both he and us will find out one way or another this coming season what he will become; it's the most important season of his pro-hockey career.