GLENDALE - Coyotes prospect Tyler Steenbergen can recall fondly playing hockey with his older brother Jordan when they were kids growing up Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
Jordan, two years older, would play defense against his kid sibling, and Tyler would try to score goal after goal after goal.
"I was always the one wanting to score and he always wanted to defend me," TyIer said. "I would smile so wide every time I'd score against him, and I always wanted to just keep on scoring."
Years later, Steenbergen, 19, still is scoring and smiling as the Western Hockey League's top goal producer. Entering this weekend's games, Steenbergen is leading the WHL in goals (28) and points (49), and his Swift Current Broncos rank fourth in the 22-team league with 27 points after 18 games.
"Not a lot of people thought we would do this well as a team," said Steenbergen, who already has notched three four-goal games this season. "I want to keep up the scoring, but I also want our team to keep getting wins. That's more important."
Steenbergen is thrilled and grateful to play on the WHL's most productive forward line. Center Aleksi Heponiemi is a crafty playmaker and Glenn Gawdin is a hard-working power forward whom Steenbergen calls "a juggernaut." The three players rank first, second and third in WHL point production with 49, 48 and 40 points, respectively. Do the math: That's 137 points for one line in 18 games.
"Our instincts just kick in as a group in the offensive zone," Steenbergen said. "As for me, I just try to find my spots and shoot the puck on net. Hopefully they'll keep going in. Like everybody, I wanted to improve my numbers from last season. I didn't think I would be scoring goals at this rate, but I'm super stoked about it and I'm going to try my best to keep it going."
Ray Ferraro holds the WHL record for goals scored in one season with 108 in 1983-84. Ferraro accomplished that feat in 72 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
That record appears safe in today's hockey landscape, but Steenbergen is determined not to slow down.
"I'd like to reach the 50-goal mark again," said Steenbergen, who notched 51 goals and 90 points in 72 games last season. "And if I can produce 100 points for our team that would be pretty cool. But the bigger goals are about our team, and my ultimate goal is to help the team keep winning so we can make it to the Memorial Cup and win it."
Steenbergen said he's tried to model his game after Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, who is averaging just over a point per game in 605 NHL games.
"He's a great linemate and he can really rip the puck," Steenbergen said.
Coyotes General Manager John Chayka has watched Steenbergen play a handful of games online.
"I think Tyler is on one of the best lines in the entire CHL, if not the best," Chayka said. "They've got a lot of good chemistry going on, and Tyler's a high-end offensive guy. He's got a great release and he sets himself up in positions to shoot the puck. Things are going his way right now and he's playing great. It's exciting to see."
Arizona selected Steenbergen 128th overall at last year's NHL Draft. He attended the team's annual prospect development camp in June and the rookie camp in September.
Chayka said Steenbergen needs to add strength and continue working on his all-around game.
"It's coming," Chayka said. "With scorers, you always want to know what else they can do for you when they don't score. He's a good scorer, but what's he going to do away from the puck is what's going to separate him from other scorers. He's come a long way in that regard early on with our organization."