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Stamkos confident McDavid will bounce back

by Mike G. Morreale

Steven Stamkos knows the pressure associated with being an elite prospect and the difficulty in living up to expectations in your draft year.

   Connor McDavid Erie Otters OHL (Mark Bell / Erie Otters)

The Tampa Bay Lightning captain was asked for his opinion on the Nov. 11 fight that took place involving Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, projected by many to be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

McDavid, who had scored a point in every game but one this season and leads the Ontario Hockey League with 51 points in 18 games, fractured the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand in the fight and is expected to be sidelined 5-6 weeks.

"I'd be a hypocrite if I said not to fight because I had a couple fights in my draft year," Stamkos said. "I even had one in the [2008] Top Prospects Game. [McDavid's] an emotional person and very passionate about the game and that's the game of hockey. At the end of the day, it was bad luck. The thing is, if he fights and is OK, I think the media takes a completely different look and says, 'What a guy he is sticking up for himself, he's not afraid to go and do that,' and they'd play it off like that.

"As it turns out, now they're saying he's young and made a mistake and he shouldn't be fighting, so it was bad luck."

Stamkos actually recorded the Gordie Howe Hat Trick at the 2008 Top Prospects Game, producing one goal, one assist and getting into his scrap with Yann Sauve, who was selected in the second round (No. 41) of the 2008 draft by the Vancouver Canucks.

"I'm definitely not against guys sticking up for themselves; I think everyone has been in a position where they've done that," Stamkos said. "But when you do, there's always risk. I remember different people telling me, 'Stammer we don't want you fighting or risk breaking your hand.' That was specifically said, so that's the risk obviously. But I'm not going to harp on [McDavid] because he did that. He stuck up for himself and sometimes you need to do that.

"In saying that, maybe he'll think twice next time around."

Stamkos was tabbed the No. 1 skater in North American on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking prior to the 2008 NHL Draft at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. He lived up to the top billing all season, scoring 58 goals and 105 points in 61 games with the OHL's Sarnia Sting and was taken with the first pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He's confident McDavid will return to the ice with the same work ethic and determination as before.

"He's an unbelievable player and this is a little setback," Stamkos said. "I definitely don't think this will affect him in any way. I see his work ethic. He trains with Gary Roberts (as Stamkos does) in the summer, so I see him. I don't actually train with him, but see him, and he's got that work ethic so he'll be fine."

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