Sat May 21 12:11am EDT
MISSISSAUGA — Steven Anthony, the newest member of the Vancouver Canucks organization, is quick to provide a retroactive rundown on his younger self.
"I was more focused on scoring — when I was younger, I was just immature," said Anthony, 20, who had a pretty nice little Friday between signing his first pro contract and cheering on his Saint John Sea Dogs to a 4-3 win over the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors in the MasterCard Memorial Cup opener while he rested a left knee injury.
"I didn't have a full grasp of what I could do with my skill set," added Anthony, who's been injured since early in the QMJHL final. "Now I know want to do as a hockey player."
Two years ago, Anthony was selected in the seventh round of the NHL draft, where teams often take a flier on a diamond in the rough. There was no question about ability or the physical specs with someone who is now 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds. Still, it took him a while to be willing to accept only a rare few grow up to be a 40-goal scorer in the NHL.
The Halifax, N.S., native noted it was a "a combination" of Sea Dogs coaches Gerard Gallant and Mike Kelly and the Canucks organization that helped him learn how to adapt. Anthony had his eureka moment after Vancouver's main camp last fall.
"With going to my first main camp this year and even getting into an exhibition game, that really showed me how many complete players they have who can do everything," he said. "That's what I set a goal to become myself. I'm a big kid, I'm a good skater, so I looked lat guys like Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Manny Malhotra on the faceoffs, and try add to that my game.
"I became a much more complete player, with physicality, penalty killing, defensive play, faceoffs, stuff I didn't try to do as much before," Anthony added. "Stuff like that made a huge difference between me signing and not signing. As a late-round pick, you really have to make a case for yourself."
All told, Anthony had 23 goals and 60 points in 61 regular-season games for the Sea Dogs while drawing second- and third-line minutes. He had five goals and 12 points in 14 QMJHL post-season games before going down with an injury in Game 1 of the President's Cup final. It's possible he might return for the playoffs or late in the round-robin.
Meanwhile, while Anthony has shed the skin of a stats-obsessed scorer, he'll step back into his past a bit while he celebrates signing with the Canucks. With two days off, the Sea Dogs are taking in a Houston Astros-Toronto Blue Jays game on Saturday. That's right in the wheelhouse of Anthony, who was a talented ballplayer in his youth. So what was better, the contract or the win?
"If you can feel one of those things in a day, that's pretty special. The Memorial Cup win is the biggest thing, because I've been playing for these guys all year."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.