David Steckel was a first round pick of the Los Angeles Kings, 30th overall, in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. After graduating from The Ohio State University, he spent last year with the Reading Royals (ECHL) and Manchester Monarchs (AHL).
The 6’5 center had a bounce back year in the eyes of the Kings organization and fans after an up and down college career. He was a point a game player in the ECHL and finished with 17 points in 63 games for the Monarchs last season.
Hockey’s Future Spoke to Steckel following Saturday’s on ice session at Manchester Monarchs camp in Los Angeles.
HF: How has the Monarchs prospect camp been so far?
DS: It’s been pretty good. We have gone to a couple events like the Dodgers game. On ice, it’s nice because you get a shooting practice and it’s better than having two teams. You get to touch the puck a little more.
HF: How did you choose Ohio State, did you get many offers from other colleges?
DS: At the time, it seemed like the best place with the best facility. They had just the 1998 Final Four appearance and I thought the program was headed in the right direction at the time. It is just a great environment and the stadium fits 18,500, so you think you’re going to fill it once in a while. I looked into Providence, Notre Dame, and I believe the Air Force Academy. I don’t quite remember about the last one. I’m not sure.
HF: You scored a ton of points in your freshman and senior years, but your points declined in sophomore and junior years. Was there a particular reason why?
DS: I switched roles a bit between those years. During my freshman year, I had a little bit of freedom to roam because they weren’t sure what kind of player or role I would fill for them. The first year I was skating with two seniors so they took the responsibility for me. During my sophomore and junior years, it wasn’t a matter of not trying to score goals. I did play a more defensive role against the opposing team’s top lines, but I also couldn’t find the back of the net. The final year I pieced it together.
HF: Do you prefer a defensive or offensive role because you can score?
DS: Personally I like shutting down top lines because I know I am going to get my chances every night. Playing against that top opens up more chances naturally, so my line will get more exposure. When I get my chances, I need to bear down and make the most of my opportunities. Hopefully from there, the goals will start to pile up for me.
HF: Do you think you are going to need to adjust for the “new NHL?”
DS: I’ve played it both ways, but I have to stick to what has made me successful in the past.
HF: Did you prepare different last offseason going from college to ECHL and AHL?
DS: My approach didn’t change from last summer up to when I when the decision to go to Reading or ‘Manch’ was made. It was all one speed and I knew what I had to do to earn my ice time. That’s how I worked back at Ohio State. I‘ve always had pride in my work ethic. You know what you have to do to get out there and I stuck to it.
HF: Was there a big difference between ECHL and AHL?
DS: It is definitely a big step. Some guys might say it isn’t, but in my opinion it is significantly faster in all that you do.
HF: Last time HF spoke to you, you were training with Jody Shelley and Deron Quint. Have you been able to apply what they taught you about playing physical, have you worked out with them any more?
DS: I haven’t seen those guys in a while to be honest. I’ve been working out here over the last two summers. Fortunately I do have Ryan Flinn and George Parros to teach a couple things now.
HF: When you skated with an enforcer (George Parros) in Manchester did your role change?
DS: I really didn’t change anything that much. George didn’t go out there looking for [a scrum]. Actually, we’re the same kind of player. We go in, we make the hit and try to get the puck moving down low. We forecheck the other team and try to provide energy for our line. If it does happen (getting into a fistacuffs), George can take care of himself. If it tends to escalate, he knew I had his back. That is how we worked all last season and I think it went well.
HF: You are here at prospects camp with another Kings first round draft pick from 2001, is there a rivalry between you and Jens Karlsson?
DS: We have talked a bit and there is a little friendly competition between the two of us, coming into the program in the same draft year (laughs). There’s been no trash talking. He was selected before me so he does have the upper edge.
HF: What was it like playing against your friend and old teammate R.J. Umberger last year in the AHL?
DS: It was all fun and games. We talked a little trash here and there, but honestly R.J. is a great guy. I saw him last year in Columbus and I’m sure I’ll see him again this year. We still stay in touch. Having guys around like that, they’re fun to play against throughout the year.
HF: Is there a lot of pressure being a first round draft pick?
DS: Yeah. You get tag, like I did last year. My whole goal regardless is to become a third line centerman. That is something that I have been working towards since my days at Ohio State, so it hasn’t changed. I think that is a more realistic approach because I don’t think I’m going to be one of those skilled guys who puts in 40 goals a year.
HF: Is this camp any different for you, going into your first NHL training camp?
DS: Not so much. You don’t try to prepare any differently. You’re just trying to get ready for the season and use this camp as a conditioning tool. The only thing is, I have a year under my belt, as opposed to the most of the players out here, so I might look a little more comfortable than some other guys.
HF: Have the Kings started talking about an NHL contract with you?
DS: Those type of things are on hold until the 21st. I won’t know what will apply to me and if the Kings get a compensatory pick or not. So, no.
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