Six seasons ago Marty St. Louis took on the role of tutoring a young Steven Stamkos.
The benefits of learning from a teammate like St. Louis has led Stamkos to become a mentor of his own for the Bolts most recent top selection in this year’s draft, Jonathan Drouin.
“Marty’s still around, still going strong, but I’d like to throw myself in there as a guy that Jonathan [Drouin] can count on if he has any questions or concerns,” Stamkos said.
Stamkos and Drouin debuted in the same group Thursday, marking the official start of on-ice practices at Lightning training camp.
The two only skated together once before, during a series of informal skates the team held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum last week.
“It was great, I think for everyone,” said Stamkos after practice. “A lot of it is just getting your legs back and getting back into shape, so not only Drouin, but a lot of guys in here looked pretty comfortable and that’s what you want to try to have happen as a veteran guy.”
With the buzz that comes with being a highly-touted prospect, “comfort” is a word that’s good to hear from someone who was once the rookie, rather than the veteran.
“When you’re a high draft pick, there are a lot of expectations, a lot of pressure and I think you put the most pressure on yourself to perform,” said Stamkos. “When you get on the ice with those guys, it’s sometimes intimidating. The more comfortable you make them feel, their true skills are going to shine.”
Not that far removed from his first training camp, Stamkos reminisced on the uncertainty of the road ahead he felt, as Drouin enters a critical time in his development during the upcoming weeks.
“You really don’t know what to expect coming into your first pro camp,” he said. “For me, it was kind of an eye-opener to see those veteran guys, how hard they work, how well they did on the testing, what they did to be a true pro.”
Stamkos in action at the Tampa Bay Times Forum during Thursday's training camp practices.
Drouin’s reflection of his first day on this ice with the pros was vastly similar to what Stamkos had experienced during his first appearance at camp.
“When you look at all the older guys, they don’t stop for one second,” said Drouin. “They go hard until the whistle blows.”
And just as Stamkos had said, he made his first attempt at establishing the teacher-student relationship with the 18-year-old forward.
“He came and talked to me and gave me some tips. It was good from his part,” said Drouin.
“It’s a great sign that he wants to help me and build chemistry. It was a good first practice.”
It’s also a two-way street for Drouin and the Lightning as the rest of the Tampa Bay team is ready to see what he brings to the table.
“We all know the player he can be and the skillset he can have, so we’re probably just as excited as he is,” Stamkos said.
The confidence that the Bolts have in the No. 3 overall pick from this past July should do its part in assuring Drouin, while young, that he’s meant to be skating among the elites on the Lightning roster. His demeanor and smile in the locker room after Day 1 should also be a key of how he may factor in with the team in the near future.