-- It seems like only yesterday that Steven Stamkos
, Drew Doughty
and Luke Schenn
were in the midst of a media whirlwind following their selections at the 2008 Entry Draft last June.
Stamkos, the blonde-haired kid with all the moves and offensive flair, would be the first selection by the Tampa Bay Lightning
. The rugged Doughty would soon follow at No. 2, taken by the Los Angeles Kings
, and Saskatoon native Schenn was eventually plucked by the Toronto Maple Leafs
with the fifth choice.
All three are Canadian born and bred and all three will once again be in the media spotlight Saturday when the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck is staged at Bell Centre.
Stamkos has points in four-consecutive games, is tied for sixth on the team with 6 goals and 18 points and is fourth with 93 shots. He's averaging a little under 13 minutes a game and is eighth among first-year players in the League with 57 hits.
Doughty not only has played the most games of all rookie defensemen (45) and has the most takeaways (23), but also tops every first-year performer in average ice time per game (23:40) and blocked shots (57). He's got 3 goals and 15 points, earns just over 27 shifts each game and has 56 hits.
Schenn isn't too far behind.
The 19-year-old defenseman is second to Doughty in average ice time (21:34) and blocked shots (54), leads all rookie defensemen with his average of 28 shifts a game and 111 total hits and has collected 16 takeaways.
Perhaps the NHL All-Star break is as good a time as any to catch up with these rapidly rising stars to find out how their first-half experience has been in the League. The trio provided NHL.com a few minutes during their media availability on Thursday to answer a series of five questions.
What has been the biggest adjustment?
: The one thing that stands out to me is just the time you have to make decisions. For me coming into the League, that was something I didn't think would be as big an adjustment. You kind of respect the guys a little too much and you don't think you have much time with the puck. You're trying to force plays and get rid of the puck right away and realize when you watch the best players, they slow the game down and they take that extra time and second to make the play and that's why they're successful. It took me a while to get used to that, but 40 games in I feel I'm starting to pick up on that and things are starting to go well and points are starting to come as a result of realizing I have a little time to make plays and able to use my skills to make those plays.
I think at first it was the off-ice living by myself. I ended up living with one of the older guys (Matt Greene
) on the team, so he made it a lot easier for me. I'd say that's the biggest adjustment. Just having to do laundry by yourself, etc.
Just the size and the speed of everyone has been the biggest adjustment from playing against 16-17 year old kids to playing full-grown men. I think another adjustment was how fast the puck moves.
-- What do you enjoy most about the NHL life?
You're getting paid for doing something that you love. You're coming to the rink every day and with your teammates. You're living the dream you had as a kid and at 18-years-old, there's nothing better than that and all the hard work that you've had so far is being rewarded and hopefully there's a lot more hockey ahead.
I don't really know what I enjoy most about it; it's a dream come true for sure and having the fan support you have and the fans at the game and being with a great group of guys.
It's just about living your dream. Playing in the NHL is something I've always wanted to do and just the way you go on the road and fly first class and go into buildings where there are 20,000 fans screaming and the attention you get just playing the game you love.
-- Best tip to those players eligible for the 2009 Entry Draft?
Just not to worry about all the press and all the pressure that's going to be put on you heading into the Draft and heading into your rookie season. That was something that I think really helped me, was trying not to worry about that and even told John Tavares
(the top-rated draft eligible player according to the NHL's Central Scouting Service) earlier this year that same thing. He's doing a great job, too.
Just work really hard. Another one of my biggest adjustments I had was realizing how strong some of the bigger, older players were and that was kind of tough for me, so I really had to hit the gym in the off season to become stronger.
First of all, I'd tell him not to worry about the rankings because those are a little bit carried away. The biggest thing though is just to keep improving and getting better.
-- Who has been the best player you have faced this season and why?
I'd have to say Joe Thornton
. We played San Jose not too long ago and he was dominant out there. When we played (Alex) Ovechkin, he was just coming back from missing 10 games earlier in the season, but I'll say Thornton. The way he controls the play and the way he slows the game down was pretty impressive in my eyes.
Alexander Ovechkin just because his speed and one-on-one ability is unbelievable. He's phenomenal.
It's hard to pick one but (Alex) Ovechkin is obviously pretty good and I think one time we were in Pittsburgh, Crosby and Malkin each had four points against us so that was a pretty good night for them.
-- Best tip received from a teammate?
I don't know if I can pinpoint one thing with the amount of leadership we have on our team. There are so many things. Mark Recchi
and Gary Roberts
have been there for so long. Just the small things like to just go out there and not to worry about what you've done in the past and keep looking forward and keep working hard. To know your teammates believe in you is a pretty special thing and that gives you confidence to believe in yourself.
Just not to panic and stay calm. Sean O'Donnell
is my D-partner and he tells me all the time that when things are breaking down in your own zone just stay calm and don't panic.
Just to stay positive and have some fun because it's the best League in the world. It's the NHL, what not to love about life right now.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.