As I was browsing through my selection of NHL games to watch last night, I quickly checked off my options. No Boston Bruins or Calgary Flames game to take in, so I went with the game that I thought would prove to be the most entertaining.
Not knowing that I would miss an epic game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, I chose to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals instead. The biggest factor in making that choice was the opportunity to once again watch Alexander Ovechkin, who, in my opinion, is the most exciting player in the game today.
While AO did not stand out per se (he did have one point and another "questionable" check), the player who commanded the most attention was Steven Stamkos.
Clearly, the Tampa Bay Lightning has some household names, such as Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, but the Bolts are quickly becoming Stamkos' team.
Since being drafted first overall in 2008, the young sniper has tallied 93 points in 124 NHL games. With 48 goals and 45 assists in just a season and a half, it is clear that Stamkos' star is on the rise.
At this point in the 2009/2010 season, Stamkos has totaled 47 points, which puts him in second on the Tampa scoring list, comfortably in between St. Louis and Lecavalier, and his 25-goal total is more than double St. Louis and Lecavalier combined.
Now, on the rare occasion when networks in the United States show hockey highlights, they tend to show the usual suspects first. They will show the Crosbys, the Oveys, and the Koveys, but hardly a moment of attention is given to NHL players such as Stamkos.
When Stamkos was first hyped as the draft choice of the Lightning, I am sure that most hockey fans will remember the "Seen Stamkos" campaign. Bumper stickers, billboards, and beach planes flying with signs, not to mention the "Seen Stamkos" Web site, were all popular.
It is my opinion that that kind of marketing for a player is clearly lacking in the NHL today, and perhaps it is that kind of push that would make the casual hockey fan turn into a die-hard fan, no matter what team he or she chooses to support.
At this moment, with or without advertising or endorsements, Stamkos is slowly working his way into the upper echelon of NHL players and, as evident by the skills he has displayed in his solid start in the National Hockey League, if you have not heard of or "seen" Stamkos, you soon will.