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TOP PICKS MEET UP ON MONDAY

2008 No. 1 pick Steven Stamkos and Tampa Bay will match up with No. 2 pick Drew Doughty and Los Angeles

Friday, 01.09.2009 / 7:53 PM / Los Angeles Kings | News
By Thomas LaRocca  - LAKings.com Staff Writer
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TOP PICKS MEET UP ON MONDAY
Two years ago the big debate was Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.

The year before, it was the NFL's turn, as arguments raged over who should go No. 1 overall, Vince Young or Reggie Bush. Someone, however, should have told the Houston Texans, who selected Mario Williams.

And who can forget 1998, Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf, what different careers the two NFL quarterbacks have had?

The top two picks in any draft, in any sport, are forever linked.

At the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning had the No. 1 overall selection and took the consensus top-rated prospect in forward Steven Stamkos. The Los Angeles Kings held the No. 2 pick and selected defenseman Drew Doughty.

The two are slated to face off on Monday, Jan. 12 as the Kings play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at STAPLES Center at 7:30 p.m.

“I think we are both really excited to play each other," Doughty said. "We don’t really look at it like I went No. 2 and he went No.1 and it was a competition. We are just buddies are trying to get out there and do our best this season. Going into the game I am sure that we are going to have it in the back of our minds that people are going to be watching to see who is going to be the better prospect or whatever.

"But we are both just going to go out there, play our games and not worry about it.”

There might be a few people watching, after all, it will be the first regular season match-up of the first two picks in that year's NHL Entry Draft since Oct. 22, 2003, when Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, the 2003 No. 1 draft selection, stopped 35-of-36 shots including four of Carolina's Eric Staal's shots, the 2003 No. 2 pick overall, in a 1-1 tie.

It will also mark just the fifth pair of top picks to play each other in their draft year since 1990, the others being Fleury and Staal (2003); Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (1997); Alexander Daigle and Chris Pronger (1993) and Owen Nolan and Petr Nedved (1990).

“It is pretty good in a way," Doughty said. "I know that back in the day the NHL didn’t have as many young guys as they do now. I think it’s great that they are giving young guys opportunities to make the team. We play a big part of the team, and going into the game, I guess there will be a little pressure on us. As I said before, we are going to go out there, play our games and try to win the game.”

Monday will not be the only time the two are on the ice together. Both were selected to the YoungStars team on Friday and will be teammates as the Rookies play the Sophomores as part of the festivities at the All-Star Weekend in Montreal.

The pair were also teammates at the 2008 World Junior Championships where Stamkos had a goal and six points and Doughty recorded four points (0-4=4) to help Team Canada win the gold medal.

The two keep in touch.

“We talk every once in awhile," Doughty said. "Not as much as I talk to some of the other guys that were in the draft with me but we have talked a couple times this year to see how things are going. When he comes into town this year, I am sure we will talk after the game and catch up.”

Stamkos has posted 4-10=14 in 40 games this season and is a minus-11. He boasted a two-goal game vs. Buffalo on Oct. 30, while also scoring vs. Colorado on Nov. 29 and vs. Florida on Dec. 27. However, he has scored just three points (1-2=3) in his last 16 games since a three-game point streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 2 (1-3=4).

Word out of Anaheim Friday morning is that the rookie forward would be a healthy scratch in their match-up with the Ducks that evening, but according to head coach Rick Tocchet, Stamkos should play Monday vs. the Kings.

Doughty, the second overall pick in last summer’s draft, leads all rookies (and the Kings) with 23:54 average time-on-ice. He has played at least 20 minutes in 37 of 40 games this season (25-plus minutes in 18 games and a season-high 29:04 Nov. 22 vs. Colorado) and has 12 points (3-9=12), third most among rookie blue-liners, while ranking first amongst rookies with 51 blocked shots.

“It still is ‘wow,’ but I guess I am past that at the same time," Doughty said of his adjustment to the NHL. I’m just trying to go out there and play my game every night. I try not to think of it like I am a young guy anymore, even though I am, I just want to go out there every night, play my best, do my part and help the Kings win.

"I think as long as I continue to do that and keep doing the little things at practice, as the season goes on hopefully I’ll continue to improve more and be a good part of the team.”