Really, Steven Stamkos said, there are no hard feelings.
That was the message from the Lightning center after learning he was not one of 46 players invited Thursday to Canada's Olympic orientation camp, the first step toward playing in the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
"It's obviously a little tough, but you have to realize the situation with me being 19 years old," Stamkos said. "I wasn't expecting to make that team by any means."
Maybe so, but Stamkos has a compelling case, nonetheless. His 23 goals set a Tampa Bay rookie record last season, and his seven goals for silver-medalist Canada tied for the tournament best at May's world championship.
"Yeah, he deserves a chance," said Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier, who will attend the Aug. 24-27 camp in Calgary with teammate Marty St. Louis.
"The fact that he's a young guy, maybe they overlooked him. But the way he finished the season, the way he played in the world championship, he definitely should go and get his chance."
It still may come. Speculation is Avalanche center Joe Sakic may retire, which would open a spot. And Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman said during a conference call Stamkos still can make a case: "If he comes out of the gate strong, he'll be a player I'll watch."
"He said it was a very difficult decision," said Lightning general manager Brian Lawton, who lobbied Yzerman on Stamkos' behalf. "(Stamkos is) definitely on the radar. There are just so many talented players."
Stamkos pointed out that the Penguins' Sidney Crosby did not play as a rookie at the 2006 Olympics. "I'm not comparing myself to him," he said, "just the mentality that the Olympic rosters usually go with guys who are experienced, especially in Canada. It's so hard to make that team with the talent Canadian players have."
Bottom line, Stamkos said, "It's not a shock to me I wasn't on there. If I was, great, but it's not the end of the world."