Melrose: Stamkos a "beautiful" skater
Lightning coach Barry Melrose liked so much what he saw of Steven Stamkos at the team's prospect camp in Victoria, British Columbia, Melrose spoke in terms uncharacteristic of the rough-and-tumble NHL.
"He's one of the most beautiful skaters I've ever seen," Melrose said Wednesday. "I hate to use the word beautiful in hockey, but skating ability like that, you're eyes are drawn to him on the ice. I know he was with kids and stuff, and it's not a fair comparison, but a great skater is a great skater."
The camp that ended at the beginning of the month is still fresh in Stamkos' mind. He said it was great for him to meet the other prospects and coaches, and putting on a Lightning jersey, even a practice jersey "was a whole new level for me."
"But as far as people watching me and the pressure, I try not to let that affect me," Stamkos said. "I just went out there and my main objective was to just work hard and have fun."
If Stamkos did nothing else, the draft's No. 1 overall pick created even more anticipation for his first NHL training camp. Beyond Melrose's critique about Stamkos' skating, he also praised his wrist shot.
"It's real quick," Melrose said. "It's the shot you want to have in today's game."
Melrose agreed Stamkos, at 6-foot-1, 184 pounds, has to keep working on his size and strength.
"He's cut," Melrose said. "He'd be a male model if he wasn't a hockey player. But he's slim. He's 18 years old. He's not a man yet. Vinny (Lecavalier) looked like a beanpole with shoulder pads on, too. Matter of fact, Stamkos is thicker than Vinny when Vinny came in."
Still, Melrose continued, "He's got to realize that's his biggest weakness right now is his size. He's going to be playing against men now, and that's his biggest adjustment, playing against guys who are as fast as he is and bigger than he is. That's what he's got to work on. We've got people talking to him every week, got him on nutritional programs, and we have strength and conditioning coaches talking to him every week, so he's going to get bigger fast and heavier fast, but he's sill a boy right now, so it's going to take time."
Having said that, Melrose said he can't wait to see Stamkos in an NHL setting.
"What happens with guys like that is he plays better with better people," Melrose said. "If you watch him play with the kids, he gives them the puck and goes to an area and he expects it back, and doesn't get it back. But if he's playing with (Ryan) Malone or a (Radim) Vrbata, he'll get the puck back. I think it's a case where the better people he plays with, the better he'll look."
"It's going to be a different atmosphere, and the competition will be at a whole new level for me," Stamkos said. "So I'm going to try to prepare myself as well as I can the next couple of weeks here, and go in there and try to make a good first impression."
Oh, and by the way, Stamkos made it clear he wants to be called Steven, not Steve. Never mind that I asked him that question before he was even drafted and said he liked Steve. No matter ...
"That's what it says on my birth certificate," he said of the name Steven. "For me, it's not a big deal. Lots of people call me Steve. But I go by the official word and that's with an N on the end, so I'll stick with it."