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Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning’s top pick receives high praise

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Published:   |   Updated: July 7, 2014 at 06:14 AM

— Shortly after Tampa Bay took defenseman Anthony DeAngelo with the 19th overall pick in last month’s NHL draft, the latest first-round selection from the Sarnia Sting chosen by the Lightning received a text message from another Sarnia alumni chosen by Tampa Bay in the first round — Steven Stamkos.

“He texted me right after the draft. Obviously he played for the Sting, so I thought that was nice,’’ DeAngelo said. “He just said he heard a lot of great things about me and he was looking forward to meeting me at camp and said congratulations. So that was a nice text.’’

DeAngelo brings an electric offensive style to his game — he led the Ontario Hockey League with 79 points in 51 games. With that type of offensive potential, it’s difficult not to envision DeAngelo slipping a puck across the ice into the shooting lane for Stamkos to step into and one-time a laser into the net.

“It’s fun to think about. All you have to do is slide the puck over and the chance is it might be going in,’’ DeAngelo said. “But for right now, I’m just going to try to keep getting better, work on my game and hopefully one day I can be doing that.’’

Some of those steps were taken over the weekend at the Lightning summer development camp. And while Tampa Bay had a fair share of notable prospects participate, DeAngelo did his best to stand out, particularly in the 3-on-3 tournament. He finished with six goals and 13 points as his team captured the championship.

“He’s a guy that controls the game from the back end and can really skate and can really move the puck,’’ Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said. “I think your first impression of him, the way he wears his equipment, the way he skates, and he’s a right-handed shot, it’s a good comparison to Dan Boyle. I don’t know if he’s going to turn into Dan Boyle, but we’d be thrilled if he did. But that’s who he reminds me of and the style of game that he has.’’

Some of those offensive skills stem from DeAngelo’s pre-teen days when he played forward, where he labeled himself as a two-way center in the mold of Mike Richards. But even as he twirled up and down the ice as a forward, his youth coach envisioned him as a defenseman. DeAngelo moved back to the blue line around the age of 11 and he’s never looked back.

DeAngelo also hopes to put behind him some of the controversy that followed him to the draft floor stemming from a pair of suspensions for comments/slurs directed at a teammate and an official. Since he heard his name called at the podium, the questions have followed him, and he understands why.

“I don’t really care what people say too much, but it is kind of annoying to answer it all the time,’’ DeAngelo said. “But at the same time I should be answering it, because people have a right to ask. I took responsibility for it and it’s not going to happen again.

“So I’m looking forward to it when it’s all about positive hockey talk or whatever it’s going to be, not something that happened in the past.’’

Now, it’s all about what DeAngelo can accomplish in the future.

“He’s confident in his ability,’’ Lightning director of player personnel Stacy Roest said. “He protects the puck well, he doesn’t get rushed into making plays, which is hard to teach guys, and that comes with confidence. It was fun to watch him out there, and I thought he was good.’’

Champions crowned

Team Filppula captured the 3-on-3 championship by winning all six games. Jeff Costello (7 goals, 6 assists), Brendan O’Donnell (8G, 3A), Brayden Point (4G, 5A) and DeAngelo were joined by Dylan Blujus, who was added for the semifinal round after his team was eliminated. Blujus had the deciding shootout goal in the semifinal round.

Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with the top save percentage among goaltenders at .806, just ahead of camp invitee and Brandon native Clay Witt. O’Donnell, who is heading to North Dakota for his senior season, had the most goals with eight.

“The biggest thing you take away from this camp is you try to learn as much as you can,’’ O’Donnell said. “I’m going back to (school), then get ready for the season and gear down for my senior season. I try not to think about (turning pro). The biggest thing is my team and our goal is to win a national championship. And once I leave this camp, that is what my focus is going to be.’’

eerlendsson@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7835

Twitter: @erlendssonTBO

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