BRANDON — Free in the slot, Steven Stamkos snapped a wrist shot that skimmed the underside of the crossbar and flew past goaltender Olaf Kolzig. Stamkos beat Kolzig again off the crossbar, but from the goaltender's left.
Not much can be drawn from watching the Lightning play pickup games that feature little defense and zero hitting. But center Vinny Lecavalier pointed out that Stamkos, the 18-year-old No. 1 draft choice this year, "has an NHL shot."
An impressive critique considering Lecavalier tells the story of then-teammate Corey Schwab telling him 10 years ago, when he was an 18-year-old No. 1 draft choice, that he didn't.
Stamkos accepted the compliment but noted the hourlong skates at the Ice Sports Forum are little more than a way for teammates to get acquainted.
"I don't know that you are really trying 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."
As grounded as Stamkos is, he admitted joining an NHL team has thrown him a bit offkilter.
He lives in a hotel near the St. Pete Times Forum, where camp opens Tuesday. He doesn't have a car and said he did not know what to expect the first time he walked into the locker room.
"Obviously, I was a little nervous coming in and meeting all the guys," he said.
But Stamkos said his teammates were great, and he got a kick out of having a steak dinner with Lecavalier and four other teammates after his first skate.
"That was pretty cool," Stamkos said and added, "It's a little hard to get adjusted when you're not settled in yet. But right now I'm probably as comfortable as I can be living in a hotel."
COLLEGE HOCKEY BLUES: It isn't difficult to figure out why the Lightning College Hockey Classic is no more. Spokesman Bill Wickett said the team lost "six figures" the past two years hosting the lightly attended late December tournament. Still, given the arena hosts the 2012 Frozen Four, the NCAA can't be happy the event failed.
NCAA spokesman Mark Bedics said the organization needs more information before it can comment. But Wickett said, "We believe this community's and this arena's ability to host major collegiate championship events has demonstrated to the NCAA that we are very capable. That's not to say we won't revisit hosting college hockey before 2012. But we need to be able to come close to breaking even in order to do so."
HEARING THE RUMORS: Michel Ouellet said he knows all about speculation he and fellow wings Jussi Jokinen and Jason Ward could be traded to help relieve a glut at forward and reduce Tampa Bay's cap number from $55.86-million.
"It's part of the game. You have to battle through it," he said. "People can say whatever they want. The only thing I can control is the way I'm playing."
Ouellet missed 18 games last season with a dislocated shoulder but roared to life with 10 goals in his last 21 games.
"It's encouraging," he said. "I worked hard during the summer. I'm ready to go."
prospects tournament: Paul Postma scored in the first period and Chris Carrozzi made 26 saves as the Thrashers beat the Lightning 1-0 at a prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich. Dustin Tokarski made 20 saves for Tampa Bay, which faces the Red Wings at 6:30 tonight, and defenseman Ty Wishart led with six shots.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.