OTTAWA - Steven Stamkos can't wait to play alongside the Tampa Bay Lightning's other No. 1 draft pick, Vincent Lecavalier. General manager Jay Feaster had even more to be excited about after the first round of the NHL draft on Friday night.
Not only did he land the player he wanted for a month, Feaster is looking forward to working for the new ownership group, led by Hollywood producer Oren Koules, that's ready to take over in Tampa Bay.
After a frustrating season in which the Lightning won an NHL-worst 31 games, things are suddenly looking up.
"Yeah, it's nice to bring some closure to everything," Feaster said. "First, from the standpoint of ownership ... and finally have this day here and be able to get Stamkos in the fold. It's a good time for us."
The Lightning made no secret how much they liked the speedy, offensive-minded 18-year-old forward from suburban Toronto and chose him just minutes after they went onto the draft clock.
That, along with a flurry of trades, highlighted the opening night of the draft. After a prime-time start on Friday, the two-day event will conclude Saturday with rounds 2-7.
Rated the top prospect by NHL Central Scouting, Stamkos is listed at 6-foot and 183 pounds. He produced 197 points (100 goals and 97 assists) in 124 games over two seasons with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League. Stamkos is already penciled in as the team's second-line center, drafted 10 years after Tampa Bay selected Lecavalier with the No. 1 pick.
"I think that's the best situation for me to have, having a guy like Vincent Lecavalier," Stamkos said. "I'm putting the pressure on myself to make it to the NHL next year."
As for Koules, he enjoyed a moment a movie maker would certainly appreciate. Days after formally being approved as an owner by the NHL board of governors, Koules received the privilege of announcing Stamkos as the team's first pick. His voice cracking with emotion at the podium, Koules said there was no better way to start his tenure than by bringing in Stamkos.
With that selection, the draft followed the script many had anticipated: A big run on defensemen and lots of deals.
Four defensemen were selected following Stamkos, starting with Drew Doughty (of OHL Guelph) taken No. 2 by the Los Angeles Kings. Atlanta followed by selecting Zach Bogosian, who played for OHL Peterborough. St. Louis took Alex Pietrangelo (OHL Niagara) at No. 4 and Toronto moved up two spots in a trade with the New York Islanders to select Luke Schenn, who played for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League.
"The top four defensemen are all special and we knew we had to act," Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher said.
In all, 10 of the first 20 players selected were defensemen, and 12 overall.
And then came the trades, 12 involving teams jumping position in the first round, and numerous others involving teams attempting get a jump on the start of the free-agency, which opens July 1.
The most significant deals involved Calgary, which traded center Alex Tanguay to Montreal for the Canadiens' first-round pick (25th), and their second-round choice next year. The Flames then acquired Los Angeles Kings center Mike Cammalleri in a trade involving three teams.
Calgary sent its first-round pick, No. 17, to Los Angeles. The Kings then dealt that pick and the 28th selection to Anaheim for the Ducks' first-rounder, No. 12 overall.
Columbus, with the sixth pick, took a chance and chose top-ranked European prospect Nikita Filatov. NHL teams have shied away from Russians in fear they might not play in North America because of the lack of a transfer agreement.
Filatov, however, has vowed he'll play in the NHL, and even committed to joining the Canadian Junior Hockey League if he doesn't make a big league roster.
The Islanders traded the No. 7 pick to Nashville, allowing the Predators to select Boston University center Colin Wilson. Phoenix took Danish-born forward Mikkel Boedker, who played for Kitchener (OHL) at No. 9.
The most emotional moment occurred when the Vancouver Canucks paid tribute to rookie defenseman Luc Bourdon, who died in a motorcycle crash last month. Then they selected center Cody Hodgson (OHL Brampton) with the No. 10 pick.
With the 11th pick, Chicago took center Kyle Beach (WHL Everett). Buffalo swapped picks with the Kings, and selected 6-foot-7 defenseman Tyler Myers (WHL Kelowna) at No. 12. Los Angeles, at 13, selected defenseman Colten Teubert (WHL Regina), followed by Carolina picking defenseman Zach Boychuk (WHL Lethbridge).
The hometown Senators earned a rousing cheer when it traded up three spots in a deal with Nashville. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson announced the team's selection of fellow Swede, defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Nashville got the Senators' pick at No. 18, when they selected goaltender Chet Pickard (WHL Tri-City), and their third-rounder next year.
Boston drafted Alberta Junior Hockey League center Joe Colborne at No. 16, followed by Calgary selecting Minnesota high school defensemen Jake Gardiner. At 19, Philadelphia drafted defenseman Luca Sbisa (WHL Lethbridge), followed by the New York Rangers picking defenseman Michael Del Zotto (OHL Oshawa).
Washington selected Swedish center Anton Gustafsson at No. 21, and U.S. Junior defenseman John Carlson at 27. With the 22nd pick, Edmonton selected center Jordan Eberle (WHL Regina).
At No. 23, Minnesota took defenseman Tyler Cuma (OHL Ottawa) followed by: Calgary picking center Greg Nemisz (OHL Windsor); Buffalo choosing Tyler Ennis (WHL Medicine Hat); and Phoenix swinging a trade with Los Angeles to pick Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of the former Soviet coaching great with the same name.
With the 29th choice, Atlanta selected center Daulton Leveille (Junior B St. Catharines). The Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings closed the first round by picking goalie Thomas McCollum (OHL Guelph).
Red Wings GM Ken Holland believes only three or four of the top picks are ready to step right into the NHL. The numerous trades got his attention, including the deal in which the Florida Panthers traded captain Olli Jokinen to the Phoenix Coyotes for two young defensemen.
"Obviously, today, you look at the established players that were moved," Holland said. "It wouldn't surprise me if there's the odd move again tomorrow."