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In Stamkos, Lightning got their man

by Mike G. Morreale

OTTAWA -- Citing a need to address his overall lack of secondary scoring throughout the organization, Tampa Bay General Manager Jay Feaster was certainly on the offensive during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place.

Feaster wasted little time reeling in Steven Stamkos, the gem of draft day, with the first pick a mere 90 seconds after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman welcomed the fans, teams and media.

“We envision Stamkos being a second-line center at present, and our scouts do believe that he is ready to make the jump to the NHL this year,” Feaster said. “Having said that, it is important that we exercise some caution here because we should not expect him to walk in and score 40 goals and record 100 points.

“The good news in Tampa is that unlike the situation that Vinny Lecavalier walked into as the first pick overall (in 1998), there are other star players on our roster who can help lead and show Stamkos the ropes.’’

Of its eight selections at the draft, Tampa Bay chose four forwards, in part to help address the anemic 2.70 goals-for the team averaged during the 2007-08 season.

Here’s a look at Tampa Bay’s 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 1 Steven Stamkos, C, Sarnia (OHL) -- Is there any question Stamkos could fill a roster spot for any NHL team next season? Absolutely not, and that’s precisely why Feaster tabbed the Ontario Hockey League superstar with the No. 1 pick.

Stamkos will fill the void left at second-line center after former Conn Smythe Trophy-winner Brad Richards was dealt to the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline in February.

“I think this is the best situation for me to have a guy like Vincent Lecavalier, who got drafted to the same organization first overall and who I can learn so much from,” Stamkos said. “They also have guys like (Martin) St. Louis and (Dan) Boyle who all proven stars in the NHL. What better guys to learn from for an 18-year-old coming into the League?”

Stamkos patterns his game after Washington’s Alex Ovechkin because, as Stamkos says, “He uses his speed, as well as his body, to create plays on the ice.”

Stamkos has exceptional hockey sense, vision and some of the finest stickhandling maneuvers you’ll ever witness. He’ll undoubtedly add strength and muscle to his 6-foot, 174-pound frame.

No. 117 James Wright, C, Vancouver (WHL) – Finished the season with 13 goals to help Vancouver to a second-place finish in the Western Conference of the WHL. Wright, who patterns his game after San Jose’s Joe Thornton, was selected to the 2008 CHL Top Prospects Game and was a member of the 2007 Memorial Cup Champions as the Vancouver Giants defeated the Medicine Hat Tigers for the title.

No. 122 Dustin Tokarski, G, Spokane (WHL) – The No. 9-rated North American goalie according to Central Scouting was named MVP of the Memorial Cup after going 4-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. He allowed only one goal in the last three games of the tournament and recorded 53 saves in the championship game.

No. 147 Kyle DeCoste, RW, Brampton (OHL) – The London, Ontario native collected 10 goals and 22 points in 66 games with the Battalion in 2007-08.

No. 152 Mark Barberio, D, Moncton (QMJHL) -- The 6-foot, 201-pound defenseman racked up 46 points (35 assists) and 75 penalty minutes in 70 games with the Wildcats.

No. 160 Luke Witkowski, D, Ohio (USHL) – The imposing 6-2, 180-pound Michigan native, who wasn’t rated by Central Scouting, had three goals, 10 assists and 139 penalty minutes in 58 games with the Junior Blue Jackets.

No. 182 Matias Sointu, RW, Ilves Jr. (Finland) – The No. 42-rated European skater by Central Scouting had 21 goals and 40 points in 41 games with Ilves in the Finland Junior League.

No. 203 David Carle, D, Shattack-St. Mary’s (High-MN) – Carle, who helped lead Shattuck-St. Mary's of Minnesota to its second straight USA Hockey Under-18 Tier I title in 2008, found out this weekend that he had a career-threatening heart condition. His future is uncertain. He is the younger brother of San Jose defenseman Matt Carle.

Contact Mike Morreale at

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