If the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to advance past the New York Rangers and book a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 11 years, they will need Steven Stamkos to step up in a big way.
While Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov lead Jon Cooper’s team in 2014-15 playoff scoring, Stamkos, the two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner, has been just as important during the conference finals. In the Lightning’s three wins thus far, he has tallied six points. In their three losses, he has just one.
That said, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Tampa Bay’s integral captain.
1. He Was Drafted 1st Overall in 2008
In two seasons with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, Stamkos amassed a silly 197 points (100 goals, 97 assists) over 124 games. The Lightning, who had won just 31 games the year before, selected him to help turn things around and immediately began a marketing campaign called “Seen Stamkos”:
Accompanying pressure with the massive marketing campaign led to just 47 points and a ninth-place finish in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy during his rookie season, but Stamkos exploded onto the scene during his sophomore campaign, leading the NHL with 56 goals as a mere 19-year-old.
Only Wayne Gretzky and Jimmy Carson have hit the 50-goal plateau at a younger age.
2. His 276 Goals Are 27th Among Active Players
Simply put, Stamkos knows how to find the back of the net.
After his turbulent rookie season, he has finished first or second in the NHL in goals scored in five of the last six seasons. The only time he didn’t finish top-two was in 2013-14 when his season was shortened by a broken tibia, and even then, he topped the league in goals per game with 0.68.
He has been to three All-Star games and been named to the NHL All-Star Second Team twice.
3. He Has Just 1 Year Left on His Current Contract
In 2011, Stamkos signed a five-year deal worth $37.5 million to stay with the Lightning. If he remains on his current contract, he will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016.
However, judging by his words at All-Star media day in January, via thehockeynews.com’s Ken Campbell, it doesn’t sound as though he wants it to come to that:
I think that’s exactly what the plan is. Obviously July 1 you can announce a deal and something hopefully similar to what (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews did, sometime after July 1. It’s a long ways away…but I’m obviously very happy with where I am in Tampa.
By comparison, Kane and Toews both make an average of $10.5 million, which is the most in the NHL. Considering Stamkos’ age and ridiculous skill set, he’s in line to become the highest paid player in the NHL. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether that happens this summer or next.
4. He Did Something Against the Rangers That Hasn’t Been Done in Nearly 2 Decades
Steve Stamkos: first player to score goals in four straight games of a playoff series against the Rangers since Mario Lemieux in 1996 #elias
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 25, 2015
In Stamkos’ first 11 games of the 2015 playoffs, he scored just one goal overall and zero in the seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings. He quickly turned things around, though, scoring six goals in the next eight, including the historic four-game stretch that helped Tampa Bay grab control of the series against the Rangers.
5. He Has Been Dating His Girlfriend for Several Years
Stamkos and Sandra Porzio have reportedly been together since at least 2012. There aren’t a lot of details on their relationship, but you can see them together at a “Dancing With The Stars” event in this video.