Stamkos does his part ... and other notes
In one week of skating at pre-camp workouts at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, Steven Stamkos made the impression everyone wanted him to make. The kid is good. He's 18. He's only 6-1, 184 pounds and has yet to face any real challenges in the NHL. But for a week, in games in which there was no defense and even less hitting, in fact there was none, the 18-year-old No. 1 draft choice did what he needed to do.
He made the veterans stand up and take notice.
"Everything I've watched has been exactly that," center Ryan Craig said when asked if Stamkos had been impressive. "He's a young guys who is a hell of a hockey player. I've seen it first hand."
After watching Stamkos blow two snappy wrist shots past goaltender Olaf Kolzig, both of which skimmed off the underside of the crossbar, center Vinny Lecavalier declared Stamkos has "an NHL shot." That is an impressive critique considering the story Lecavalier tells about himself as an 18-year-old No. 1 draft choice in 1998.
"I remember Corey Schwab told me in a good way, he said, 'Vinny, you still have a junior shot. You're 18, you have a weak shot. You have to work on that.' I said, 'You know what? I want to have a good shot and thanks for helping me.' I didn't really know."
As for Stamkos, he said the games at the Ice Sports Forum were more for players to get acquainted.
"I don’t know that you really try to impress everyone,” the center said. “You try to go out on the ice and do the best you can do. You want to be the player you’re hyped up to be; there’s a little pressure there. But once training camp starts, that’s where you really want to impress the coaches and players, when you’re put in real game situations.”
More on Stamkos coming Sunday.
Anyway, Friday was the final day of pre-camp skates in Brandon. Twenty-four players showed up. The most notable might have been Evgeni Artyukhin. Two years since he wore a Lightning jersey, he looks almost the same. Big bear mitts and huge: 6 feet 5, 254 pounds. He also had a huge smile on his face despite still feeling the effects of a 10-hour flight from Moscow (business class to accommodate his frame).
"It's a good feeling," he said. "I'm excited to be again with the Lightning. I always liked this team. When I played in Russia, I was always thinking about Tampa. I'm very happy."
Artyukhin, who signed a two-year, $1.9-million contract, said he was approached by several Russian teams to play in the new Continental Hockey League. He said they offered "good money," but he said he considers the NHL the worlds No. 1 league.
"I said I'm going to the NHL," Artyukhin said.
Michel Ouellet also has looked good. The right wing, who struggled for most of last season but turned it on with 10 goals in his final 21 games, said he has heard the rumors that he and fellow forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jason Ward are on the trading block as part of an attempt to lower Tampa Bay's $55.86-million cap number.
"It's part of the game. You have to battle through it," Ouellet said. "People can say what they want. The only thing I can control is the way I'm playing. ... I worked hard during the summer. I'm ready to go."
Here's some thumbnail training camp info:
When: Tuesday through Sept. 21.
Where: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa.
Watch: Workouts are free and open to the public Wednesday through Friday and during the Sept. 21 IceFest.
Parking: Free in the VIP West lot.
Autographs: Players sometimes sign coming off the ice. Players also will sign on the Times Forum concourse after split-squad practices during IceFest.
Schedule (subject to change)
Tuesday: On-ice testing, 11:45 a.m.
Wednesday: Split-squad practices, 10 a.m.
Thursday: Practice and scrimmage, 10 a.m.
Friday: Practice and scrimmage, 10 a.m.
Sept. 20: Game at Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: IceFest, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; practice, 12:15 p.m.
And for those of you who really have nothing to do, two of the Lightning's prospects tournament games will be shown a day late and on tape on the NHL Network: vs. the Thrashers at 8 p.m. Sunday; vs. the Rangers at 8 p.m. Wednesday.