To do it shortly after signing your first NHL contract...well that’s something Steven Anthony could only have imagined in his wildest dreams.
Having recently turned 20 years old, Anthony is back in Vancouver this week, attending his third summer development camp at Rogers Arena. To say the native of Halifax, Nova Scotia has gone through a roller coaster ride of emotions the past few months would be an understatement.
“It’s hard to put into words how crazy the past few months have been,” says Anthony, who was part of the Memorial Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs. “We won the Quebec League title, winning 16 games and losing only three. Then upon arriving at the Memorial Cup, I got an offer from Vancouver to sign. Then a week later, we wound up winning the Cup. So it was pretty intense.”
Anthony was Vancouver’s final pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, going in the 7th round (187th overall). That came after his second of four straight seasons playing with Saint John. His most recent and final campaign of major junior hockey was his best, as in 61 games, Anthony posted 23 goals and chipped in 37 assists.
“Steven had to earn his ice time every day this year as they had a lot of depth on that team in Saint John,” comments Canucks Director of Player Development Dave Gagner. “Their coaches made all their players accountable every day and he had to learn to share some of the responsibilities.”
“That to us is a really huge part of his development,” adds Gagner. “Now he knows what it takes to be part of a winning team and the sacrifices you need to make to be on championship teams.”
Anthony knows it’s a luxury to come to camp having just signed a contract as many of those he’s skating with have only been drafted or here as free agents. However, he knows having signed a deal with the Canucks doesn’t guarantee him a thing this week.
“It’s no different than getting drafted,” says Anthony. “Signing a contract is just another step and opportunity for me to show that I can be a Vancouver Canuck one day.”
The 6’2, 205lbs. left winger had to battle through an injury late in the QMJHL playoffs, one that nearly cost him a chance to play for the Canadian Hockey League title.
“[During] Game 1 of the league finals, I hurt my MCL,” recalls Anthony. “It kept me out for a couple of weeks. Luckily the team got to the Memorial Cup and I was able to get just enough rest to play in the last game. I was lucky to be able to get on the ice and eventually lift the trophy over my head.”
Anthony was on a star-studded team by junior hockey standards this year. Four of his Sea Dogs teammates wound up being taken in the first two rounds of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. As a result, Anthony played a variety of roles for his club throughout the year, which made him a valuable part of his team’s championship success.
“Earlier on in his junior career, he may have had difficulties accepting those things,” says Gagner. “He’s really improved in that area. His acceptance of roles now is impressive.”
While he does have one more year of junior eligibility left, it’s unlikely Anthony will return to the MJHL. The Canucks feel he is poised to be able to take that next step in his career as a player.
“He’s got a pro-style body and he can skate really well,” concludes Gagner. “He just has to continue in his learning curve with moving into the pro level now.”