ANAHEIM, Calif. – Steven Stamkos, the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft, was scratched from Tampa Bay’s lineup for the first time this season to build up his strength after a 16-game stretch in which he had only one goal and two assists.
Stamkos, who turns 19 on Feb. 7, led all rookies with 84 shots on goal entering Friday night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. A club spokesman said the six-foot, 180-pound centre will be given a game off here and there during the rest of the season.
The club wants him to work on his conditioning, and said he won’t sit out consecutive games. That means Stamkos will match up against No. 2 overall pick Drew Doughty when the Lightning play the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.
Stamkos had four goals and 10 assists in 40 games with the Lightning, after averaging 62 games in each of the previous two seasons with the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League. He was selected Friday to play in the NHL YoungStars game on Jan. 24 in Montreal during the league’s all-star weekend festivities.
Stamkos, whose plus-minus rating is minus-11, signed a three-year, US$2.625-million contract that could be worth up to $11.175 million with incentives. He is the third player the Lightning have drafted No. 1 overall, along with defenceman Roman Hamrlik (1992) and centre Vincent Lecavalier (1998).
Lecavalier, a four-time all-star and the franchise’s career leader in goals, assists, points, game-winning goals, power-play goals and games, appeared in all 82 games during his 1998-99 rookie campaign, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. Hamrlik had six goals and 15 assists in 67 games as a rookie in 1992-93.