When it comes to the All-Star Game, Steven Stamkos said he still feels like a little kid.
The Lightning center — Tampa Bay's only player in today's game at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa — said he will be star-struck hanging around "(players) I grew up watching and still watch today."
"When they say complimentary stuff to you, it's kind of weird," he said. "You never see yourself as one of the top players in the league."
Stamkos, in his second straight All-Star Game, is that, with a league-best 32 goals and on his way to a second Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer.
Just as noteworthy, though, and under the radar, has been his evolution into a star under his own power.
No longer under the wings of veterans such as Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, Stamkos, who turns 22 on Feb. 7, is setting his own pace as a player and own agenda as a team leader.
He is a strong voice in the locker room, Lecavalier said. And on the ice, where for so long he was tied to St. Louis, Stamkos is producing on his own.
No longer a fixture on Stamkos' line, St. Louis has assisted on only nine Stamkos goals. Part of that is a result of Tampa Bay's abysmal power play. But Stamkos compensates with a league-best 26 even-strength goals.
"It's important for any competitor to feel he has control over his game," coach Guy Boucher said. "Whether he's linked to Marty or Vinny or anyone who has been here before, deep down every player wants to be his own man."
All-Star nod still thrills, amazes Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos
Tampa Bay Times | Jan 29