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Looking back, Steven Stamkos relishes his experience at 2012 All-Star Weekend

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

The funny thing about Steven Stamkos is that he still feels like a little kid when it comes to participating in the NHL All-Star festivities, whereas on most nights, he looks like a man among boys on the game's biggest stage.

That's because Stamkos, who returned from Ottawa on Monday after taking part in his second consecutive NHL All-Star Weekend, spent four days in Canada's capital city both playing with and competing against "some of my favorite players I grew up watching when I was younger."

That, in fact, alone, is what made this past week so special for the 21-year-old Lightning center.

"It's still a little surreal," the Bolts forward said. "But I had a blast and it's definitely something special to be a part of with those types of players. You never really put yourself in the group when talking about the game's best, so sometimes I still have to pinch myself."

Perhaps what Stamkos doesn't know though, is that while he himself may not think of his own person as an elite player, some his fellow colleagues in the NHL already do.

On Thursday, at the NHL's All-Star Media Day, that was Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk who bestowed the honor upon the NHL's leading goal scorer.

"This game, the goal has always been to be that kind of five-star top player here, Datsyuk said. "To me, I think that's [Evgeni] Malkin, Stamkos..."

"I didn't know he said that," Stamkos said upon hearing the news. "That's pretty cool and obviously it means a lot coming from him. I'll definitely take that with me."

The Lightning forward certainly validated Datsyuk’s comments after a solid showing in each of the three main events included in the NHL All-Star Weekend.

On Thursday, captain Daniel Alfredsson and alternate captain Henrik Lundqvist took the Lightning center with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 All-Star Fantasy Draft. Just two nights later, Stamkos competed in three skills events, including the last of which where he was crowned champion of the Elimination Shootout contest after he went three-for-three against the formidable goaltending tandem of Carey Price and Tim Thomas. He then concluded his run of success with an assist on Jason Pominville's goal during Sunday's mid-season classic finale.

"It was a lot of fun," Stamkos added. "At every event, no matter where you went, there was a great crowd and a great atmosphere. It's something I'm going to remember for a long time."

That the All-Star festivities took place in Ottawa made the past week's festivities even more significant. It was there, where almost four years ago, the Lightning drafted Stamkos with the first overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Since then, the forward has evolved into one of the league's most dynamic players.

He has the most goals of any skater since the 2009-10 regular season and currently leads the NHL with 32 goals so far this year, as he appears to be on pace to capture his second Rocket Richard Trophy in three seasons.

Those numbers alone serve as reason enough to qualify Stamkos as All-Star status, a distinction he lived up to this past week In Ottawa.

For someone who said he stills feels like a kid out there, he's sure made it look like child's play.

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