Should we believe the Stamkos hype?
There was lots to like about what coach Barry Melrose said about Stamkos' skating ability and ability to get off a good wrist shot. But I didn't get the impression Melrose was being overly optimistic about what he might get out of the 18-year-old in his rookie season. If you read further, Melrose said he knew the skating comparisons to the other players at the prospects camp were not fair and wanted to see the center in an NHL setting. He also was pretty clear that Stamkos needs more beef on his 6-foot-1, 184-pound frame to be able to compete at the next level. But he also pointed out that Stamkos is still a "boy."
So I didn't get the impression Melrose was being unreasonable with his critique.
What is a reasonable expectation for Stamkos? Hard to say. No one is comparing him to Sidney Crosby. He certainly was the best player in the draft, but I can't find any credible "expert" who believes Stamkos is going to put up 100 points. Having said that, though, there is plenty of evidence he is going to be a useful player, and he'll have to be when taking over the second line. Remember, the original plan was to have Stamkos anchor a third line and bump him up occasionally until he got acclimated to the NHL game. But then Jeff Halpern got hurt and, well, all of a sudden, Stamkos' learning curve needed to be a lot shorter.
Dave MacQueen, Stamkos' coach at OHL Sarnia, said for a story we did before the draft that he believes 25 goals and 60 points is not out of the question for Stamkos, who likely will start camp playing with wings Ryan Malone and Radim Vrbata. Still, there is going to be pressure to perform, and that's where I believe Stamkos is well-suited for what's ahead.
I have never seen the kid play, so I'm going on the word of everyone else who raves about his skills. But I have spoken to him at length and found him to be as grounded as an 18-year-old can get. He is confident but not full of himself. He also seems to know his limitations, understands he has to get bigger and stronger. Stamkos seems to understand that expectations should not get in the way of his natural development on the ice.
He also gets the PR aspect of his situation. Talking about the excessive autograph signing he had to do after every practice at the prospects camp, he said, "I have no problem with that."
As for on the ice, it's all wait and see, obviously. But won't it be fun to see how it develops?