First overall draft pick Steven Stamkos puts on his Jersey from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the NHL draft in Ottawa, Canada on Friday, June 20, 2008. Stamkos, a six-foot, 176-pound forward from Toronto, had 58 goals in 61 games with the Sarnia Sting last season, the second-highest total in the Ontario Hockey League.
Fred Chartrand / AP Enlarge
OTTAWA Steven Stamkos can t wait to play alongside the Tampa Bay Lightning s other No. 1 draft pick, Vincent Lecavalier.
General manager Jay Feaster had even more to be excited about after the first round of the NHL draft last night. Not only did he land the player he wanted for a month, Feaster is looking forward to working for the new ownership group, led by Hollywood producer Oren Koules, that s ready to take over in Tampa Bay.
After a frustrating season in which the Lightning won an NHL-worst 31 games, things are suddenly looking up.
Yeah, it s nice to bring some closure to everything, Feaster said. First, from the standpoint of ownership and finally to have this day here and be able to get Stamkos in the fold. It s a good time for us.
The Lightning made no secret of how much they liked the speedy, offensive-minded 18-year-old forward from suburban Toronto and chose him just minutes after they went onto the draft clock.
That, along with a flurry of trades, highlighted the opening night of the draft. After a prime-time start yesterday, the two-day event will conclude today with rounds 2-7.
Rated the top prospect by NHL Central Scouting, Stamkos is listed at 6-foot and 183 pounds. He produced 197 points (100 goals and 97 assists) in 124 games over two seasons with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League. Stamkos is already penciled in as the team s second-line center, drafted 10 years after Tampa Bay selected Lecavalier with the No. 1 pick.
I think that s the best situation for me to have, having a guy like Vincent Lecavalier, Stamkos said. I m putting the pressure on myself to make it to the NHL next year.
As for Koules, he enjoyed a moment a movie maker would certainly appreciate. Days after formally being approved as an owner by the NHL board of governors, Koules received the privilege of announcing Stamkos as the team s first pick. His voice cracking with emotion at the podium, Koules said there was no better way to start his tenure than by bringing in Stamkos.
With that selection, the draft followed the script many had anticipated: A big run on defensemen and lots of deals.
Four defensemen were selected following Stamkos, starting with Drew Doughty (of OHL Guelph) taken No. 2 by the Los Angeles Kings. Atlanta followed by selecting Zach Bogosian, who played for OHL Peterborough. St. Louis took Alex Pietrangelo (OHL Niagara) at No. 4, and Toronto moved up two spots in a trade with the New York Islanders to select Luke Schenn, who played for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League.
The top four defensemen are all special, and we knew we had to act, Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher said.
Ten of the first 20 players chosen were defensemen.
And then came the trades involving teams attempting to get a jump on the start of free agency, which opens July 1.
Calgary completed two deals, trading center Alex Tanguay to Montreal for the Canadiens first-round pick (25th) and their second-round choice next year. The Flames then acquired Los Angeles Kings center Mike Cammalleri in a trade involving three teams.
Calgary sent its first-round pick, No. 17, to Los Angeles. The Kings then dealt that pick and the 28th selection to Anaheim for the Ducks first-rounder, No. 12 overall.
Phoenix acquired Florida Panthers captain Olli Jokinen for defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton and the 49th pick.
Columbus acquired Flyers forward R.J. Umberger and Philadelphia s fourth-round pick (118th) for the Blue Jackets second of two first-round picks (No. 19) and their third-rounder (No. 67).
The Canadiens also received permission to negotiate with Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who can become a free agent this summer. Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey said he has the framework of a trade with the Leafs in place, on condition Montreal signs Sundin.
The most emotional moment of the night occurred when the Vancouver Canucks paid tribute to rookie defenseman Luc Bourdon, who died in a motorcycle crash last month. Then they selected center Cody Hodgson from Brampton (OHL) with the No. 10 pick.
The hometown Senators created two stirs. First they placed goalie Ray Emery on waivers. Then Ottawa earned a rousing cheer when it traded up three spots in a deal with Nashville. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson announced the team s selection of fellow Swede, defenseman Erik Karlsson.