Wayne Gretzky is among Steven Stamkos's biggest fans and says Stamkos is good enough and surrounded by enough talent in Tampa Bay to score 50 goals in 50 games this season.
Gretzky did it three times during his career, including the 1981-82 season when he scored 50 in 39 games. While few, if any, believe that record will ever be equaled, indications are that Stamkos does have a shot at becoming just the sixth player to score 50 in 50.
Gretzky says Stamkos is one of the fastest players in the game and combined with a ferocious work ethic and keen hockey sense, has become a special player.
Gretzky says Stamkos "has that drive. He's never satisfied. Some have it and some don't. To me, it's evident he has the inner drive."
Speaking from experience, Gretzky says 50 in 50 can't be accomplished without the help of good players and believes Stamkos has that support in Tampa Bay. Martin St. Louis has assisted on 10 of Stamkos's 20 goals, including four straight, and seven of his last nine. To score 50-in-50, Gretzky says Stamkos will have to be played in all situations, and may need a few empty-netters along the way.
Stamkos has one empty-netter this season but didn't get a full chance to add to that total Monday night. In Tampa Bay's 3-1 win over the Bruins, Boston pulled goaltender Tuukka Rask with 1:08 remaining, near the end of Stamkos's final shift. Lightning head coach, Guy Boucher elected not to play Stamkos in the final minute - even after Boston called a timeout. Boucher is believed to want to carefully manage the hype and pressure growing with each goal.
Gretzky called to congratulate Steven Stamkos after he hit the 50 goal plateau last April and intends to do the same this year. That is, unless Stamkos turns it up...and does the unthinkable. If 50 in 39 is challenged, Gretzky says he will be there, in person to witness it.