So over the summer, the Tampa Bay Lightning center trained with recently retired forward Gary Roberts, known for his dedication to fitness. Stamkos called Roberts "fanatical" about his off-ice training, and he got to see it up close near his home in Ontario.
"We did some unusual things," Stamkos told FanHouse by phone from Ottawa, where the Lightning are playing Thursday night. "The toughest part was on dry land, pulling a 100-pound sled, sprinting the whole way and then turning around and going back. I was face up on the ground, gasping for air."
Stamkos added five to seven pounds of muscle or so, though, and his body fat dipped by three percentage points. He said he didn't want to add too much weight and sacrifice speed, so the body fat percentage was the real goal.
The best measurement, of course, has turned out to be ... real goals. Stamkos, displaying his usual zip on his skates, is also putting the puck in the net like nuts. Until Tampa Bay's last game, an overtime win over Toronto, Stamkos, now 19, had scored goals in six consecutive games. He's tied for second-most in the league, with 11.
"Things have kind of been going my way," Stamkos said. "All that work this summer is starting to pay off, but I didn't think I'd start this spring, but when things go your way, pucks start to go in. I wanted to ride it as long as possible, and luckily, when it ended, it came in a win."
That's brought him new attention as a potential Canadian Olympic selection. Stamkos was disappointed not to be invited to the country's pre-Olympic camp in Calgary during the summer, but the Canadian brass, including general manager Steve Yzerman, are scouting Stamkos regularly and Yzerman in particular has been praising Stamkos. He watched the Lightning's game at Toronto on Tuesday and told reporters that he is "definitely" impressed with Stamkos.
"I wasn't thinking about it at the start of the season," Stamkos said of Vancouver 2010. "But with the start I've had and people talking about it, if I keep it up, a long-shot (selection) is a possibility. I'd love the opportunity to represent my country, but obviously my main focus right now is on this team and winning every night here."
Stamkos' ice time has increased nearly five minutes per game since last year -- and of course it's far more than it was early last season, when ex-Tampa Bay coach Barry Melrose was particularly sparing with time for Stamkos in the first 16 games. It wasn't the smoothest of transitions into the league, but looking back, Stamkos believes that having to deal with some adversity might have helped him. And there's little doubt he felt more and more comfortable playing in the NHL, tallying 21 points in the final 22 games of his rookie year.
This year, Tampa Bay has another top rookie on the squad in defenseman Victor Hedman, who is 18. Asked if he's taken Hedman under his wing, Stamkos laughed.
"I don't know if he can fit under my wing," Stamkos said. "He's 6-foot-8. He played two years as a pro in Sweden, he doesn't need much advice. And he's fit right in and helped with the blue line, which is what we needed."
The Lightning also can have some fun, though. Recently, trying to get out of a little funk, the team played a sort of strip-shootout, discarding bits of uniforms and gear for every missed shot. Stamkos got down to his undershirt because he missed four times, but St. Louis was even without skates by the time he put the puck in.
"It was good, lots of laughter," Stamkos said. "We just needed to get some fun back into practice, and that was fun."