Steven Stamkos breaks out at last
Currently, the NHL has three 40-goal scorers:
That's right. Steven Stamkos -- the Tampa Bay Lightning's 20-year-old second-year center. He's currently riding a 16-game point streak in which he has amassed 20 points. And, yes, he is now part of the 40-goal fraternity.
Not that this should surprise anyone. Stamkos has always been a gifted goal-scorer. He netted 105 for the Markham Waxers at the midget level before potting 100 more for the Sarnia Sting during two seasons of junior hockey in the OHL -- not including 11-playoff tallies during his second season. Drafted first overall by Tampa Bay in 2008, much was expected of the highly-touted prodigy, but a disappointing and deflating slowdown in production ensued when the Lightning's new coach,
Since the middle of last season, Stamkos has seen more ice and he's been scoring in his usual productive fashion. He finished with 23 goals as a rookie and has never looked back to that dark beginning of his NHL career. He now leads the league in power play goals (16), and his wicked one-time slapshot from the top of the left face-off circle is a staple of the Bolts' man-advantage strategy. And why not? Even when goalies know it's coming, Stamkos' shot is so potent, it gets past them anyway. His puck-pounding prowess has relegated
From afar, his 40-goal stature might surprise, but up close, the development of Stamkos' all-around game is what stands out. Current coach
Certainly, Stamkos benefits from St. Louis' speed and experience. St. Louis seems re-energized playing with the sensational sophomore. I say that because, as breathtaking a breakthrough as it has been for Stamkos this season, he still doesn't lead Tampa Bay in scoring or time-on-ice among their forwards. St. Louis does on both counts -- his 78 points and 21:43 TOI are both fourth overall in the entire NHL. Only Ovechkin,
Not to dismiss St. Louis' old buddy, Lecavalier, because Stamkos still looks inexperienced in the face-off circle, where he is just over 46 percent effective. Lecavalier is at more than 53 percent in face-off efficiency. The Lightning with St. Louis, Stamkos and Lecavalier look like Tampa Bay's 2003-04 Cup team that had
When you think about it, Stamkos could easily be an Yzerman selection on the next version of Team Canada if the NHL participates in the 2014 Winter Olympics. That's also assuming that Yzerman retains the reins of Canada's selection process. Stamkos has won gold for Canada as a member of its 2007 World Junior team and he played extremely well in last spring's World Championships. During the recent Olympics, he was just a fan.
"I went home for a week and just relaxed," he says. "I watched the Olympics and for the Gold Medal game, I had a few of the guys over to watch. It was great hockey. Intense. We got pretty loud."
Right now, the noise surrounding Stamkos is the buzz that his superb play has generated. Talk about buying right for new owner
Best of all, young Steven Stamkos is only beginning to fulfill the great expectations that greeted his arrival in the league two years ago.