Playing with an edge
Steven Anthony doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.
The Vancouver Canucks prospect and current Saint John Sea Dogs forward is a genuinely nice guy, heart of gold, wouldn’t hurt a fly.
The Canucks are hoping he can ditch that nice guy persona on the ice, call it Extreme Makeover: Hockey Edition.
The 19-year-old Halifax product, drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver, made his Canucks pre-season debut on September 21st in a 3-1 loss to the Flames in Calgary as part of a split-squad doubleheader.
Amazed, overwhelmed, astonished, bewildered, proud; you name it, Anthony felt it, but it’s what the Flames felt from Anthony that caught the attention of Canucks assistant coach Rick Bowness.
“After the game Rick just said that for me to play like I did in that Calgary game, playing every shift as hard as I can, hitting guys, skating and moving my feet, he said play like that in Saint John and do it consistently and that I’ll have success,” said Anthony. “So that’s what I took back from Vancouver and I think that’s going to help me this season.”
Anthony is now eight games into his fourth season with the Sea Dogs and by all accounts, he’s become a meaner, tougher player to go up against. He also has five goals and four assists and a plus-4 rating as he teeter totters offence and grit.
Turns out the balancing act hasn’t been as difficult as Anthony anticipated, particularly because he knows how to play with an edge, it just doesn’t shine through at times.
These days when Anthony loses touch with his physical being, he channels his muse and thinks W.W.B.D: What would Burrows do?
“I wouldn’t say I’m an agitator like he is, but definitely being harder to play against is what I want to do. Burrows is a pretty amazing player because of how he mixes the grit and the talent that he has. He’s a player I look up to for sure because we have similar size and stuff like that, so I think watching him I’ll be able to learn a lot.”
Both the Canucks and Sea Dogs will be pleased to see Anthony display a consistent physical approach to his game, but it’ll take time before everything comes together, especially mentally.
Last season Anthony started red hot as he led Saint John in scoring for the first 15 games before being bitten by a bad flu bug and pulling his groin. His performance dipped as the forward struggled to find his game and he finished seven points shy of his 48 point season a year prior.
The worst part of all was that Anthony was still suffering from a nagging groin injury when the playoffs rolled around forcing him to sit out 16 of 21 games as the top-ranked QMJHL Regular Season Champions lost to the Moncton Wildcats in six games in the league championship.
“That’s definitely a second half that I want to forget and it was tough because the team had a really good season. It’s not how I wanted to finish out the year, but that’s hockey, things happen that you can’t control, so I just have to play well this season and the playoffs and just take it one game at a time.
“I think this year I just have a different approach where if I have a bad shift or a bad game, I’m just going to forget about it and move on because there’s a lot more than one game in the season.”
Spoken like a true veteran. Some prospects grow up so fast.
Anthony is still a prospect though, and there’s business to tend to in Saint John before he gets another crack at the Canucks.
The Sea Dogs are one point back of the Wildcats for top spot in the Maritimes Division through 13 games with an impressive 57 goals for (5th overall) and 33 against (2nd overall).
It’s early, but Saint John looks primed for another run at the QMJHL title.
“I think we do have all the tools in place to repeat as league champs and hopefully win it all this time instead of losing in the finals. We had a weekend early on where we played Moncton, Montreal and Rimouski, three teams that are near the top of the league and we won all three games.
“This year could be another special year in Saint John and I hope to be a big part of it for the entire season.”