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Steven Stamkos: Warming up for the world juniors

Steven Stamkos has lit up the OHL this season, totaling 30 goals and 51 points in 32 games.

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Steven Stamkos has lit up the OHL this season, totaling 30 goals and 51 points in 32 games.

BY STEVEN STAMKOS

I’ve had a crazy schedule recently and part of that was having the honor of representing the OHL in the CHL/Russia summit series in Sudbury.

My club team, the Sarnia Sting, had a game on Sunday afternoon versus Plymouth. After a 4-3 win, my parents drove defenseman Mark Katic (the Isles’ draft pick) and myself to the airport in Toronto, where we boarded a flight to Sudbury, arriving at 11:30 that night.

The next day we suited up against the Russians. The atmosphere in the dressing room was great. All the guys got along well, and it was a great learning experience for me as a young player to learn from the older guys in the league.

Having played three games during the weekend for Sarnia, this was my fourth match in four nights, so I was running on adrenaline in the first period. The Russians play the game much differently than we do: If they can’t make a play when they hit the centerline, they don’t dump it in, they circle back, instead. This was tough to get used to and I really began to see how important puck possession was to their game.

One player who really stood out on the Russian side was No. 11, Vadim Golubtsov. It seemed like every time I was on the ice, he had the puck. Golubtsov was flying out there.

I played a couple of shifts with two Kitchener Rangers, Matt Halischuk and Nick Spaling. Their work ethic was unreal and Halischuk in particular was great on penalty kills. I also did some penalty killing and even though my adrenaline crashed after the first period, I thought I played sound, defensive hockey and skated well.

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If I learned anything from the game, it’s that I want to continue to get stronger on the puck - as the Russians showed just how important puck possession is.

After our 4-2 victory, coaches Craig Hartsburg and Mike Foligno came into the dressing room and told us how proud they were of how hard we worked. The OHL had never lost to Russia in this series and they told us beforehand how much they wanted to keep that streak alive.

Hartsburg is also the coach of the World Junior team, so he had actually called me the other day to congratulate me on being invited to the final evaluation camp for Team Canada. He told me to get some rest, because it’s a short camp and to just play my game.

If I do, hopefully I’ll get a chance to represent my country over the holidays.

Seventeen-year-old center Steven Stamkos is one of the favorites to go first overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft. The native of Unionville, Ont., currently plays for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario League.

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