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Stamkos major part of Lightning rebuilding effort

NHL.com @NHL

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, who held the first pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, it was impossible to ignore the numbers Steven Stamkos posted for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League last season. But there is more to Stamkos than just offense.

Stamkos has drawn comparisons to Detroit legend Steve Yzerman, who in his prime was considered one of the most potent offensive threats in the NHL, as well as a strong player in his zone. During the early part of Yzerman's career, however, Detroit was not a good team and Yzerman was viewed as a one-dimensional, offense-only player. Stamkos, only 18, already is considered a dependable force in all three zones.
 
Stamkos was fifth in the OHL in scoring -- second among players younger than 19 -- with 105 points and was second in the league with 58 goals. He followed that with nine goals -- including four in one game -- in the Sting's first-round OHL playoff victory over Windsor.

Ask Stamkos about his game, however, and he will talk about defense and a complete game.

"I like to see myself as a complete hockey player," Stamkos said. "When a lot of people look at me, they kind of base my game strictly on offense. And I definitely enjoy scoring goals and getting assists, but I think what separates me from a lot of people is my ability to play defense as well, and just my fearlessness out there. I'm not afraid to go into the corner and rough it up, whether it be after the whistle, stuff like that. I take pride in my defensive game as well as my offensive game."
 
To prove Stamkos' defensive prowess, he led the Sting with a plus-18 rating. But to have such an impressive plus-minus rating, Stamkos had to produce some offense, and he certainly did that.

Another comparable player for Stamkos would be Wendel Clark, who played a rugged style while banking seven 30-goal seasons.

"I can remember my dad's favorite player was Toronto's Wendel Clark," Stamkos said.  "When I was born on Feb. 7 (1990), my dad was actually watching a Leafs game and he had a little medallion made up from the ticket stub of that game. That was pretty special for me. So I really enjoyed watching Wendel Clark when he was in Toronto."

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
2007-08 SEASON STATS

Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 71
(15TH eAst/29th NHL)
Change from 2006-07 -22
Home Points 43
(12th eAst/25th NHL)
Away Points 28
(15th eAst/30th NHL)
The younger Stamkos likes to pattern his game after Washington left wing Alexander Ovechkin, who despite possessing some of the best offensive skills in the NHL, also is no stranger to physical contact.

"I like his style of play," Stamkos said. "Like me, he's not afraid to rough it up out there.  You see him throwing some pretty big hits, and he just loves scoring goals and using his speed and creativity out there on the ice and I think that's definitely someone that I like to pattern my game after."

Stamkos' new club is just four years removed from a Stanley Cup victory, but finished in last in the League last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. But starting with the purchase of the club by movie producer Oren Koules and former NHL player Len Barrie, the club revamped the roster and front office, and the hope is the Lightning can emulate Philadelphia's rise from last in the League in 2006-07 to the Eastern Conference Final in 2007-08.

With Stamkos plus offseason additions like Ryan Malone, Radim Vrbata added to holdovers like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, the Lightning should be able to strike more frequently this season.

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