OTTAWA -- Imagine if Steven Stamkos refused to acknowledge his name being called out shortly after 7 p.m. tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning make him the first pick of the 2008 entry draft.
That was the advice recently given to the gifted Sarnia Sting forward by Maple Leafs broadcaster Joe Bowen, a close friend of Chris Stamkos, Steven's father.
"We were at a father-son softball game a couple of weeks ago and Mr. Bowen jokingly told me that if I got drafted by any team other than Toronto, I should hold off on going up to the stage until it was time for the Leafs to pick," Steven Stamkos said with a laugh.
Having grown up in Unionville with his close friend Sean Bowen, Joe's son, Stamkos never hid the fact that he was a diehard Leaf fan. And when his beloved blue-and-white were flirting with the basement of the 30-team NHL in early February, he would take time to quickly peek at the standings to see if, in fact, the Leafs might have a shot at him.
Alas, a late-season winning streak by the Leafs rocketed Toronto up to 24th spot, meaning that dream was dead.
"It's hard with the Toronto media not to pay attention," Stamkos said. "In the paper late in the season they would list the bottom five teams and projected where the guys were going ... My friends and I had a good chuckle at that.
"(The Leafs) tried to go for the playoffs and it didn't work out."
Not that Stamkos is going to mind being a member of the Lightning, rubbing elbow pads with the likes of stars Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
Stamkos has yet to officially become a member of the team and already the organization has been promoting him, splashing his mug on billboards and setting up a web site dedicated solely to him.
"It's a pretty big honour," Stamkos said. "When I first saw the website I thought it was done by the fans. When I found out it was the team, well, it shows how much they want me."
Once Stamkos is off the board, the Los Angeles Kings hold the No. 2 pick and have been fielding plenty of trade inquiries from teams looking to move up. Guelph Storm defenceman Drew Doughty was once considered to be the natural pick here, but many scouts have changed their minds and figure Zach Bogosian of the Peterborough Petes, another impressive defenceman, might be the better selection.
Two intriguing players to watch are Kelowna Rockets defenceman Tyler Myers and Everett forward Kyle Beach.
At 6-7, Myers has often been compared to Zdeno Chara because of his hulking physical stature. Scouts say Myers still has holes in his game, but feel he is a high-risk, high-reward type of player.
That is the same label being placed on Beach, who is very skilled but has shown a disturbing tendency to snap out on the ice.
Tonight's first round starts at 7 p.m. at Scotiabank Place and will be shown live on TSN.