While the Islanders may not have drafted first overall pick Steven Stamkos, they did manage to draft his two Sarnia Sting linemates. Forwards Matt Martin
(selected in the 5th round, 148th overall) and Justin DiBenedetto
(6th round, 175th overall) flanked Stamkos during the 2007-08 season.
As one of the top trios in the entire OHL, the Stamkos-DiBenedetto-Martin line possessed a host of talent, but in different areas of the game. Stamkos played the role of finisher, DiBenedetto the set-up man and Martin the forechecker.
Martin, who hails from Windsor, Ontario joined Stamkos and DiBendetto on a line in 2007-08, bringing his aggressive style of play to an already potent duo. Martin brought his physical presence to help open up the game for his two linemates.
"I love how Matt plays the game," said Islanders OHL area scout Tim MacLean at the draft. "He's a big, physical force, who hits really hard. Matt is a guy who forechecks hard and forces turnovers due to his physical play. He's someone who sticks up for his teammates and is willing to drop the gloves. But he also has an offensive upside."
Martin finished the 2007-08 season tied for third on Sarnia with 25 goals, upping his total from three in his rookie season in 2006-07.
"I would describe myself as a power forward," said Martin. "I don't mind throwing the body around and like to be the first one on the forecheck. I play the grinder role on my line. I had a good season with linemates this year. It was an honor to play with them."
After not being drafted in his first year of eligibility, instead of taking it personally and feeling sorry for himself, DiBenedetto went out in 2007-08 and put up impeccable numbers while playing with Stamkos and Martin. The Etobicoke, Ontario-native registered 39 goals and 54 assists, good for 93 points in 58 games. His point total placed him 11th in the OHL.
"Justin is very skilled," said MacLean. "He put up a lot of points and that wasn't just from feeding off Stamkos. Justin likes to go in the dirty areas. He has a good shot and is a finisher. He knows how to get to the open ice and developed good chemistry with his linemates."
While some might consider it a risk drafting an older player, DiBenedetto has a lot of potential. Even in 2006-07, when DiBendetto scored 30 fewer points, he accumulated a team-high +21 rating, exemplifying his defensive awareness.
"Ever since I began playing with (Stamkos) last year we had great chemistry," said DiBenedetto. "I just try to get open for him. He's a great player and if you're open, he'll get you the puck. Matt's a good guy to have on the line because he opens up the ice for you."
Neither Martin nor DiBenedetto were at the draft, but they found out soon after being drafted they were members of the Islanders organization. DiBendetto first found out via a text message from Stamkos. Martin spoke earlier with Stamkos and received a call from fellow Islanders prospect and Sarnia defenseman Mark Katic
, who congratulated him on becoming an Islander.
With three Sarnia Sting players as members of the Islanders organization and the two newest already set to travel to Long Island in July for the annual mini-camp, the two newest members are undoubtedly feeling more comfortable knowing they'll see a couple of familiar faces.
"I am very good friends with Katic and Justin," said Martin. "We have very good chemistry on and off the ice. It'll be nice to head back to Sarnia for the season and be able to share some stories from camp."
As for Stamkos, who picked up Islanders hats and jerseys at the Draft to bring back for his teammates, he won't be joining his three Sting brethren having been selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that won't change their relationship.
"He's a great personality off the ice," said Martin. "I wish him all the best."
Added DiBenedetto, "I'll be rooting for him, but if we ever meet in a pro game, I'll have to drop the mitts with him."CLICK HERE FOR THE ISLANDERS DRAFT CENTRAL 2008