That's Steven Stamkos, 15 years ago.
Tomorrow night, a few months removed from his 18th birthday, he becomes the face of an NHL franchise desperately in need of a facelift, a teenager saddled with expectations and fame and a one-way ticket from little Sarnia to Tampa, Florida.
And he'll be fine.
Stamkos isn't a bust. He's been the best hockey player in the world at his age level for years, at least since scoring 105 goals as a 15-year-old midget player and being drafted first-overall into the OHL. Two prolific junior seasons later, one turn for Canada's world junior team, and he's a pro.
When that picture above was taken, the Montreal Canadiens had just won the Cup and a 31-year-old Blackhawks defenceman named Chris Chelios took home the Norris Trophy.
It's a lot to ask Stamkos to be a star right away, but the Lightning are getting a good one.
More thoughts on the draft:
- We've been hearing forever now that this will be a deep draft, and the pundits aren't kidding. When there are junior players who scored 30-40 goals and have size available near the end of the first round, that's depth
- A lot of the high end talent comes on the blueline, which is a bit of a twist. Normally 18-year-old defencemen are more difficult to project, and sometimes slide out of the "can't miss" slots, but four of the top six picks in 2008 will be blueliners. And that doesn't include 6-foot-7 Tyler Myers, who could be a gem (one that grew up in Texas, no less)
- TSN.ca's predraft coverage is incredible so far. I wonder if Bob McKenzie gets a summer vacation
- One defender I really like the sound of is Zach Bogosian, who most are projecting to go third to the Thrashers. The noise out of Peterborough has some comparing him to another former Pete in Chris Pronger
- Everyone is talking about Kyle Beach, which leads me to believe he goes higher than the 10-spot everyone has him slotted in. He's big, mean and can score goals. A scout's dream
- This is going to be a very North American draft, especially early on, something that is due to the talent out there and the confusion over the fact there's no longer a transfer agreement with European leagues. The undersized Russian kid, Nikita Filatov, probably still goes in the top five, but after that? The next two Europeans taken are likely to be playing in the Canadian junior system.
In the absence of an NHL transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation, it is possible all European players (excluding those who played in North America) drafted will get defected status, which means there is no forced timetable on when they must be signed. In the last few drafts, when the transfer agreement with the IIHF was in force, NHL teams had two years to sign their European draft picks or risk losing them.The difference between an indefinite hold on these players and a two-year signing window is immense, so keep an eye on what happens there.
I'll be hosting a live chat on draft day afternoon (1 p.m. EST) at FanHouse, and will be taking questions on the prospects and the expected trade activity. We had 22,000 turn out for the awards chat, but can always use a few more.
And if you're a blogger covering the draft, let me know, as I'll have a roundup of links before things get going tomorrow.