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NHL draft

Lightning top pick Stamkos will learn from the best: Lecavalier

OTTAWA — The phone call likely comes today.

Lightning superstar Vinny Lecavalier said he would give Steve Stamkos Friday night to enjoy with friends and family being the draft's No. 1 pick. After that, the job of integrating Stamkos into the Tampa Bay family begins.

"Day after the draft," Lecavalier said. "I'm going to prep him as much as I can. We want him to be as comfortable as possible."

"I'm going to try to learn as much as I can from him," Stamkos said. "It's a great situation."

Teacher and pupil, age and experience, both No. 1 picks, 10 years apart. Perhaps they will have adjoining lockers as Lecavalier and Brad Richards flanked Dave Andreychuk in order to tap what he knew.

The Lightning believed it tapped a good one as presumptive owner Oren Koules called Stamkos' name at Scotiabank Place.

General manager Jay Feaster noted emerging similarities in skill and leadership to legends Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. He gushed that Stamkos, at 18, is defensively responsible.

"It's one of the things that sets him apart," Feaster said.

He also confirmed the obvious. With Jeff Halpern down with a serious knee injury, Stamkos will start camp as the second-line center.

Okay, so at 6 feet 1, 184 pounds, he needs to get stronger. There is still room and time to grow.

"What we would really be pleased with is if he came in and was the best Steve Stamkos he could be and fit in with the ensemble there," Feaster said.

That is where Lecavalier can help; Marty St. Louis and Dan Boyle, too. But neither was a No. 1 pick as Lecavalier was in 1998. And neither had the burden of being the Michael Jordan of hockey as Lecavalier was tagged by former owner Art Williams.

It is a perspective Stamkos wants to tap and Lecavalier said he wants to provide as Enrico Ciccone, Wendel Clark and Sandy McCarthy did for him.

"I definitely want to take him under my wing," Lecavalier said. "He's got to aim high, and he's got the potential to do it right away. He's just got to be ready to come to camp and make an impression right away."

"I'm ready," said Stamkos, whose 58 goals last season for Sarnia was second in the Ontario Hockey League and who helped Canada to a world junior championship.

He said he will not wait for Lecavalier to approach him.

"If there's something I'm stressing about, I'll go up and ask him," Stamkos said. "I'm sure he has a lot of tips for me, so this is a perfect place for me to go."

The lifelong Maple Leafs fan from Unionville, Ontario, said it is where he wanted to go.

"I had to play it political for a while, but no more ifs, ands or buts, it's official, and I'm so excited," Stamkos said. "You look at the skill level with Lecavalier, St. Louis and Boyle and some young guys coming up. I don't think I'm coming to a rebuilding team. I'm coming to a team that has great talent and can be turned around pretty quickly."

"My ultimate dream has come true," he added. "I'm speechless."

Hopefully he gets over that before Lecavalier calls.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

NHL draft

When: Rounds 2-7 — 10 a.m. today

TV: NHL.com (live stream)

Lightning picks: Round 3 (62); Round 5 (122); Round 6 (152, 160); Round 7 (182, 203)

Lightning top pick Stamkos will learn from the best: Lecavalier 06/20/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 11:08am]
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