If Steven Stamkos is playing in late December the way he is playing now, there is absolutely no doubt he’ll belong on the Canadian Olympic team. Steve Yzerman and those putting Canada’s Olympic entry together will simply not be able to ignore the Lightning super sophomore’s fine play and his ability to create offense.
And if they do hold Stamkos’ birth certificate against him, shame on them. Because it’s precisely what he’s doing as such a young player that makes him a special talent in the first place.
Going into Friday night’s game against the New York Rangers, Stamkos had 15 goals in 22 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning. And if you check the NHL’s website, two of Stamkos’ goals are among the top-five of the first quarter of the season.
That puts Stamkos on pace for a mind-boggling 55 goals this season, which would, depending on when he scores it, make him the third-youngest player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season. Stamkos turns 20 years old Feb. 7 and if he reaches 50 in the last game of Tampa Bay’s season on April 11, he’ll have scored 50 goals at the age of 20.2.
The only other two players in history to score 50 goals at a younger age are Wayne Gretzky, who posted his first 50-goal season when he was 19.2 years old and his second when he was 20.16, and Jimmy Carson, who scored his 50th goal at the age of 19.8 years.
And if Stamkos picks up the pace on his assist total even a little bit, he’ll hit 100 points this season as well. That would make him, in all likelihood, the 10th-youngest player in NHL history and just the seventh that young to score 100 points in a season. (Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk and Sidney Crosby each scored 100 points twice by the time they were the age Stamkos will likely be when he gets his 100th point of the season.)
Speaking of scoring, it’s down a little from last season, but you wouldn’t know it by the numbers some players are putting up. In fact, the NHL is on track to have seven 50-goal scorers this season, which would be the highest total since 1992-93.
Marian Gaborik leads the pack with his 19 goals, which puts him on pace to score 69 goals this season. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the groin – pardon the expression – to the fans of the Minnesota Wild? Speaking of players giving their former fans a good steel-toe to the mid-section, Dany Heatley is on pace to score 56 himself. Others on pace to get 50 this season are Alex Ovechkin (68), Ilya Kovalchuk (65), Jarome Iginla (57), Stamkos (55) and Ryan Malone (55).
The NHL is also on pace to have just as many 100-point scorers, which would be its highest total since 1995-96. Those on pace to score 100 are Gaborik (119), Kovalchuk (110), Brad Richards (108), Ovechkin (108), Joe Thornton (104), Zach Parise (103), Anze Kopitar (103), and Corey Perry (103).
The NHL had just one 50-goal scorer last season and it was Ovechkin – who finished 10 goals ahead of the next highest scorer – and only three 100-point scorers. Even though average goals per game is down slightly from last season, it’s clear some of the NHL’s star players are “bringing it” through the first quarter of the season.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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