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No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay Lightning takes a seat

January 9, 2009 |  7:30 pm

Steven Stamkos Steven Stamkos, the top pick in last June's entry draft, was a healthy scratch from the Tampa Bay Lightning's lineup Friday against the Ducks, and somewhere, Barry Melrose is laughing.

When Melrose was fired by the Lightning after coaching only 16 games, he said that one big point of contention was Stamkos' readiness for the NHL. He didn't think the kid was ready and said he was pressured to play Stamkos because he was a potential drawing card.

Well, it now seems that the team's coaching staff, led by Coach Rick Tocchet, has decided that the 6-1, 180-pound center needs to bulk up before he can be effective against some of the muscular defensemen in the NHL. Stamkos has been put on a weight-training program that will take precedence over playing, and he was held out of Friday's game.

Stamkos has four goals and 14 points and a minus-11 plus/minus rating in 40 games.

He's scheduled to play against the Kings on Monday at Staples Center, which should be interesting because the No. 2 overall pick, defenseman Drew Doughty, has had remarkable success so far. Which leads to the question: Did the Kings really win when they lost the lottery for the No. 1 pick?

Seems that way so far, though Stamkos has talent and isn't likely to be a total bust.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Steven Stamkos brings the puck up ice during a game last month. Credit: Doug Benc / Getty Images