2008 NHL Draft dramatically changed the Tampa Bay Lightning

By Scott Seningen

Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay Lightning

Photo: Selected first overall in 2008, Steven Stamkos has developed into one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

With the number one overall pick going into the 2008 NHL draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning were expected to select at least one successful NHL player. This was certainly the case, as Steven Stamkos, widely touted to be one of the best prospects in the world for quite some time prior to the draft, turned out to be a top-notch sniper at the NHL level. 

Although they did not pick up another sure-fire starter, which is not surprising considering they did not draft again until the fourth round after their selection of Stamkos, they did wind up drafting some quality NHL-caliber skaters. 

Steven Stamkos, C, Sarnia Sting (OHL) – 1st round, 1st overall
Status: NHL Star
NHL Games: 353

The number one overall pick in the draft is expected to become one of the best players in the National Hockey League. Steven Stamkos most certainly did not disappoint. 

Stamkos laced up for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL in the season prior to his NHL selection.  He put up ridiculous offensive statistics in that campaign, notching 105 points (58 goals, 47 assists) in 61 games played. He was marked as a player with a style similar to Steve Yzerman prior to the 2008 draft. There was no weakness to speak of in his game, offensively or defensively. 

After his selection by Tampa Bay, he immediately jumped to the NHL where his stardom took off.  His signature goal-scoring weapon, the one-timer, has continued to put the puck past netminders, season after season. 

In almost five full seasons of NHL hockey, Stamkos has established himself as one of the top goal-scorers in the sport. He has won two Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophies for his efforts, one in 2010 and the other in 2012.

James Wright, C, Vancouver Giants (WHL) – 4th Round, 117th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games: 76

James Wright was selected in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL draft by the Lightning after a 2007-08 campaign with the Vancouver Giants, which saw him notch 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 60 games. After his selection, he remained with Vancouver for the 2008-09 campaign. In the fall of 2009, Wright signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Lightning.  He quickly made the NHL roster, playing his first game for Tampa Bay in early October of 2009.  Wright stayed with the NHL squad for 48 games during the 2009-10 season, with five points (two goals, three assists) to his credit. Sent back to Vancouver in early 2010, he showed strong offensive production in garnering 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 21 games. 

He played the majority of the following season, 2010-11, with Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate in Norfolk. He did see ice time in one NHL game with the Lightning that same season. 

With five points in 22 games for the Norfolk Admirals in 2011-12, Lightning management decided to trade Wright to the Florida Panthers. He was sent with Mike Vernace in return for Evan Oberg and Mike Kostka. Wright finished the 2011-12 season with the Panthers' AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage, putting up a very respectable 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) in 54 games. 

The Saskatoon native laced up for 40 more games with the Rampage in the AHL, before being placed on waivers by Florida, and being claimed by the Winnipeg Jets. Through 27 games with the Jets, Wright has notched one goal and one assist. 

Wright is a big two-way forward, with an abundance of energy. He is a valuable player down low, although not a natural goal-scorer at the NHL level. 

Dustin Tokarski, G, Spokane Chiefs (WHL) – 5th Round, 122nd overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games: 7

After an outstanding 2007-08 season with the Spokane Chiefs where Tokarski earned 30 wins in net, he led his team to the 2008 Memorial Cup Championship. His tremendous performance was duly recognized as he was named the Memorial Cup Most Outstanding Goaltender and the Stafford Smythe Trophy as the Memorial Cup Most Valuable Player that season. 

Tokarski was selected by t