TAMPA, Fla. — Imagine having a youth summer hockey team that included players who would turn out to be the No. 1 overall NHL picks in back-to-back years, as well as a few other solid eventual pros. Chances are, you would not lose much. In the case of the squad that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Islanders captain John Tavares were on, they only lost once.
That was the way Stamkos remembered it after he skated with his teammates Thursday. He recalls that the team went 49-0-1, losing only to an opponent from Ottawa, in a shootout. With a grin, he added that he thinks the defeat happened because Tavares missed a shootout attempt.
“My dad was the coach, and he picked Johnny,” he added with a laugh.
There was no debate over who Tampa Bay would choose when it had the No. 1 overall selection in 2008. It was Stamkos all the way. He still is their leader, although he is out with a blood clot and hopes to play at some point in the playoffs although he does not see it as imminent. He is watching the Lightning closely, offering advice and encouragement without trying to be intrusive.
He also saw the Islanders’ first-round series against the Florida Panthers and was impressed by the center, with whom he also played in the World Junior Championships.
“I know him quite well,” Stamkos said of Tavares. “You want your best players to step up in these moments, and he has done that for sure. He had a great first series, a great first game. He’s the captain for a reason. It’s his work ethic to begin with, and then he lets his skill set take over. When you have that combination, that usually means a lot of success.”