And The Winner Is...Tampa Bay!
Will Steven Stamkos Be A Bolt?
The Tampa Bay Lightning had the best odds Monday night to win the number one pick during the NHL lottery draft and the franchise loved the result. Once it was announced that the Bolts did win the number draft, GM Jay Feaster must have felt like a little boy in a toy shop. Come June in Ottawa, the Lightning have a chance to turn the franchise around with one draft pick.
Tampa Bay has had two number one picks in their short history. Roman Hamrlik in 1992, who now plays with Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens and Vincent Lecavalier in 1998. The Bolts built a team around Lecavalier and he led them to the Stanley Cup Championship in 2003-04. But with a terrible season of only 31 wins behind them in 2007-08, the Tampa Bay needs to capture Lightning in a bottle to play as they have in the past.
Steven Stamkos is supposed to be the next big thing and has been projected the number one pick for months now, causing this draft to be named the “Stamkos Sweepstakes.” This came at a perfect time for the Lightning who will not have another draft pick until the third round, but will Tampa Bay choose him?
For those of you who do not know this Stamkos character, here is a quick snip of all you need to know.
In his OHL 07-08 season with the Sarnia Sting, he played 61 games and accumulated 105 points with 58 goals and 47 assists; nearly two points a game. Currently, Stamkos has 11 points, all of them being goals, in seven playoff games. He also led Team Canada to the gold medal at the World Junior Championship. This kid can find the net with his eyes closed which is a perfect fit for the terrible Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa did clean house at the trade deadline this year and received a couple of potential future stars. Jussi Jokinen is a shoot-out specialist and Alexandre Picard has great potential on defense. Stamkos would be a perfect replacement for recently traded Brad Richards on the Bolts roster and would fit nicely with these young prospects.
Even if Tampa Bay does not need another forward, Stamkos could potentially make great trade bait. The Lightning are in need of defensemen not named Dan Boyle and they are in desperate need of a true #1 goalie. Trading their number one pick could get them two or three quality players and really get the franchise back to cup contention.
The problem for Tampa Bay is that this team may have the worst NHL history of draft picks outside of 1998’s pick of Vincent Lecavalier. Maybe this is because they have only had three first round draft picks since 1999, trading all the others away. Today, the Lightning do not have any of their first round draft picks playing on the current roster, or on anyone else’s roster in the NHL. Here are the floppers since 1999, followed by the ones that got away.
Last year they did not have a first round pick, but this year they have an opportunity to pick a champion. Draft picks are so important and I know there are no guarantees, but Stamkos may be as close as a team can get.
Let us say the Lightning have a yet another brain-fart and decide to not pick Stamkos, who else is available?
What a coincidence, this is the draft year for defenseman.
Zach Bogosian will probably go second in the 2008 NHL draft. A very emotional player who loves to make plays - and loves to fight – Bogosian has it all. He averaged one point a game over the 61 games this year and is a definite franchise player. Zach would be a great power-play specialist in the NHL because of his mobility on the point. His slap shot is not a muffin, but a rocket that will be deflected for many goals. If you need a defenseman, this is your man.
Drew Doughty is an attacking defenseman who makes skating look easy. He has debatably scored the highlight of the year this season in the OHL with an amazing coast to coast goal. He brings intensity, enthusiasm and makes everyone around him better. If drafted into the right coaching system, Doughty may be the next Paul Coffey.
Alex Pietrangelois very mobile and never stops skating. This Niagara Ice Dog scored 53 points this year which is more than Doughty and has a great future in the NHL. Unfortunately, Pietrangelo’s season came to an early end due to a lacerated spleen. Alex would be a great asset for a team in need of man on the blue line.
Will Steven Stamkos be a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning? Not picking him would be more disastrous than their 31 wins last year. The game, the city, the fans, and the franchise all need him desperately.
Here are the losers of the “Stamkos Sweepstakes” and their respectable draft positioning:
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Atlanta Thrashers
4. St. Louis Blues
5. New York Islanders
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
8. Phoenix Coyotes
9. Nashville Predators (from the Florida Panthers)
10. Vancouver Canucks
11. Chicago Blackhawks
12. Anaheim Ducks (From the Edmonton Oilers)
13. Buffalo Sabres
14. Carolina Hurricanes
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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