With the Lightning winning the No. 1 pick in this summer's NHL Entry draft, all eyes in Tampa Bay turn toward the consensus top overall pick, 18-year-old Steven Stamkos of the Ontario Hockey League.
Coveted for his incredible skating ability and rocket-hard shot, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound center from Unionville, Ontario, seems to be the hands-down favorite to go as this year's top draft pick. After accumulating 197 points (100 goals, 97 assists) in two seasons with the OHL's Sarnia Sting, Stamkos seems ready to break into the NHL and may very well do so in a Lightning uniform next season.
"To have the opportunity to have the No. 1 pick and have that player we think is NHL-ready be a forward, that's a real nice position for our franchise to be in," Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster told the St. Petersburg Times.
Through 61 games this season, Stamkos scored 58 goals and recorded 47 assists for the Sting. He also has 11 goals through nine playoff games. Sarnia drafted Stamkos No. 1 overall at the 2006 OHL draft.
NHL Central Scouting Bureau's E.J. McGuire: "He is a dominating force, a potential franchise player."
Sarnia Sting head coach Dave MacQueen: "He's so dynamic. His skill level, awareness on the ice and hockey sense are so much more advanced than a lot of the players in our league. He's got a gear that is above everybody else and he can do everything at high speed. He wows people in that sense . . . it's a credit to the way he was raised, he puts things (like personal recognition) on the backburner and just goes out and plays the game he loves, and has fun doing it."
Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray: “He's like those Bugs Bunny cartoons. He's everywhere. You look out and he's the first guy on the forecheck and you look in your own zone and he's the first guy back . . . so many players with (his) speed come over the (blue-line) but have to slow down to make plays. He doesn't slow down to make those plays and that's really unusual. He doesn't only play well offensively, but plays real well defensively and he's not afraid to get his nose dirty.”
He scored nine goals in the first round of the 2008 OHL playoffs -- including four goals in a 5-4 win in Game 4 -- helping the Sting eliminate the Windsor Spitfires in five games.
Led the Sting and ranked second in the OHL with 58 goals (58-47--105) in
61 games played in 2007-08.
Named the OHL's Player of the Month for February after scoring 13 goals and 22 points in 13 games.
Was recognized as the best stickhandler and voted as having the best shot in the OHL's annual Coaches Poll.
Was one of two players born in 1990 named to Team Canada for the 2008 World Junior Championship. He helped lead Canada to a gold medal recording six points (1-5--6) in seven games, including a goal and an assist in the quarter-final game against Finland.
In 2006-07 he was awarded the Bobby Smith Trophy as the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year awarded annually to the player who best combines high standards of play and academic excellence. He was runner-up for the OHL Rookie of the Year in 2007 to the eventual 2006 number one draft pick, Chicago Blackhawk's Patrick Kane.
Was selected first overall in the 2006 OHL Priority Draft after scoring 105 goals (105-92--207) for the Markham Waxers Minor Midget team.
Stamkos' shootout goal in the 2007 OHL skills competition has over 100,000 views on YouTube.
He began skating at the age of three and played his minor hockey for the Markham Waxers. He played alongside Oshawa's Michael Del Zotto (ranked 15th) and Brampton's Cody Hodgson (ranked 9th).