Steve Stamkos said he likely will come into Lightning camp humble but also confident.
"You have to realize you're a young kid coming into a man's game and it's going to be tough for the first bit," he said. "Not a lot of people like a guy who's cocky. On the other hand, you can't be afraid to show your skill."
Tampa Bay took a huge step in its rebuilding process Monday night when it won the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery. And while general manager Jay Feaster said "you never say never," it would take "a no brainer" for the organization to trade the pick.
There is no doubt the pick will be Stamkos, 18, the NHL-ready center from Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League; the consensus best player in the draft and perhaps a franchise player as well.
Stamkos also fills a need for Tampa Bay, whose summer shopping list includes at least two top-six forwards and a steady, veteran defenseman.
"So to have the opportunity to have the No. 1 pick and have that player we think is NHL-ready be a forward, that's a real nice position for our franchise to be in," Feaster said.
For Stamkos as well.
The native of Unionville, Ontario, knows there will be expectations with the Lightning. As Sarnia's No. 1 selection, and the top overall pick of the 2006 OHL draft, he knows the feeling.
"And I think I'm able to handle that pretty well," he said in a phone interview.
"There's always great players around to support you, and you're only going to get better in a rebuilding stage where things are on a positive note. With me being able to have that experience here in Sarnia, I will be just fine with that."
Stamkos said Sarnia assistant Greg Walters told him Lightning coach John Tortorella, for whom Walters played in 1996-97 at AHL Rochester, will be an asset.
"He said he was a very good coach and liked playing under him, and he's going to make you a better player," Stamkos said.
Stamkos, a 6-foot, 180-pound right-handed shot, has been great for Sarnia with 58 goals, 105 points and 88 penalty minutes in 61 games this season. He added 11 goals in seven playoff games.
Stamkos said the best part of his game is his skating, on which he worked hard last summer.
"And that really helped me this year to help me take defensemen wide, using my speed to help crate offensive chances," he said. "I also like to see myself as a pretty complete player. I take a lot of pride in the defensive side of the game. You can't be a liability on defense if you want to be successful at the next level."
"We have a kid who's in the draft who's going to be a superstar," said former Lightning captain Dave Andreyhcuk, who represented the team at the lottery in Toronto. "We're excited."
A nice feeling for a Tampa Bay team that finished last in the league (giving it a 48.2 percent chance of gaining the top pick), endured injuries, intra-team dramas and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
"It was nice to see at this time in an entire season, that the storm cloud parted," Feaster said, "and actually there was a little bit of sunshine here in the Sunshine State."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.