The Tampa Bay Lightning had the best chance (25%) of winning the NHL Draft Lottery on Monday night, and the team was pleased with a rare positive result. The NHL's worst team during the 2007-08 season won the draft lottery, and will have the first pick in this year's draft, set to take place in Ottawa on June 20.
The most likely selection for the Lightning looks to be Steven Stamkos, of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting. Stamkos is a six-foot-one-inch, 170 pound center from Unionville Ontario. Stamkos turned 18 in February of this year.
Stamkos played for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships this season, scoring a goal and adding five assists in seven games. In 61 regular season games with the Sanria Sting, Stamkos registered 58 goals, 47 assists, 105 points, and was a +18. The Sanria Sting are currently in the OHL playoffs, and Stamkos has recorded 11 goals in just 7 games so far.
With Tampa Bay looking to find the missing peice to re-energize their team and play alongside all-stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, Stamkos looks like their best bet with the top pick. Trading away Brad Richards and Vinny Prospal at the trade deadline this season, the Lightning opened up room at the center position; room that they hope the 18-year old center will fill.
The Los Angeles Kings (2), Atlanta Thrashers (3), St. Louis Blues (4), and New York Islanders (5) will round out the top five draft selections.
Four elite defenseman are also among the top scouted prospects this year. Drew Doughty (Guelph Storm), Zach Bogosian (Peterborough Petes), Alex Pietrangelo (Niagara IceDogs), and Tyler Myers (Kelowna Rockets) could potentially all be drafted in the top ten. The top European prospect is Russian winger Nikita Filatov (CSKA Moscow, Russian Super League). Filatov speaks fluent English, and won a gold medal with Russia in 2007, and a bronze in this year's World Junior Tournament, both with wins against Team USA.
Barring a blockbuster last-minute trade, it looks like Samkos will be wearing a Lightning jersey at the start of the 2008-09 season.