DETROIT - Steven Stamkos was all ears Monday when a certain Pittsburgh Penguins superstar offered some friendly advice to the top-rated prospect in next month's NHL entry draft at Scotiabank Place.
"It was so special to meet a player of Sidney Crosby's calibre," Stamkos said enthusiastically after a prospects event at the Stanley Cup final.
"He just said, 'Just enjoy the time,' " added Stamkos. "He remembered that he was in our shoes not so long ago. He just said, 'Enjoy the combine and draft coming up and keep working hard because the players are getting better and better it seems.
"If you have the work ethic, you should be fine.' "
Time flies when Crosby, still only 20, is already in a position to advise young stars. And Stamkos was hanging on every word.
"I remember watching him in London when he was in the Memorial Cup with Rimouski," said Stamkos. "And all the media attention surrounding him. I like the way he deals with things both on the ice and off the ice, it's tremendous.
"Hopefully, I'll be playing against him one day."
Try next year. Stamkos will be the first overall pick June 20 in Ottawa and has a legitimate shot at making the Tampa Bay Lightning in September.
"My mindset right now is to play in the NHL next year," said Stamkos, a native of Markham, Ont. "It wouldn't be that bad if I'm back in junior but my main goal right now is to make it to the NHL. I've been working really hard in the gym this summer."
Stamkos led the OHL's Sarnia Sting and was second in the league with 58 goals in 61 games this season. He also added 47 assists. Many feel he's ready to make the jump although when he entered the dressing rooms of the Stanley Cup finalists Monday, he realized the challenge that lies ahead.
"Just seeing the guys in the dressing room today and how physically mature they are, I know I've got a lot of hard work ahead," said Stamkos. "But I think I'm up for the challenge."
The Lightning have made no secret of the fact they'll be taking Stamkos.
"After the draft lottery I got an e-mail from Mr. Feaster," Stamkos said, referring to Lightning GM Jay Feaster. "He wanted to meet with me. I was actually supposed to go down this weekend but we had to re-schedule because of the events here.
"We'll probably meet with them at the combine and hopefully get a visit down to Tampa after that."
After Stamkos, it's anyone's guess. There's a rich group of talented blueliners available. Los Angeles has the second overall pick followed by Atlanta, St. Louis, the New York Islanders, Columbus and Toronto.
Zach Bogosian of the OHL's Peterborough Petes is the second ranked North American prospect by NHL Central Scouting followed by No. 3 Drew Doughty of the OHL's Guelph Storm, No. 4 Tyler Myers of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets, No. 5 Luke Schenn of the Rockets and No. 6 Alex Pietrangelo of the OHL's Niagara Ice Dogs.
Russian forward Nikita Filatov is the top-ranked European skater and may also crack the top 10 next month at Scotiabank Place. He wasn't on hand Monday but the top six North American prospects were. And they unanimously agreed meeting the Penguins and Red Wings players was the highlight of the day.
"It was awesome seeing what those guys were like," said Bogosian, a native of Massena, N.Y. "It was fun to be in the Penguins dressing room because Jordan Staal drove me around when I was younger in Peterborough.
"And I've played with Ryan Whitney's brother and Ryan Malone's cousin so I had some conversations with those guys. That was nice."