It’s possible that Steven Stamkos was ready for Major Juniors when he was 15 years old, but unlike John Tavares, was not given exceptional player status to play in the Canadian Hockey League a year early (and probably didn’t ask for it). Instead, Stamkos simply lit up the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA), with a ridiculous stat line that led his team, the Markham Waxers, to the OHL Cup in 2006.
Stamkos, who played in the Markham Waxers’ development program since age 9, worked his way from house league up to the Waxers’ midget-minor team by age 15. During the 2005-06 season with the Markham Waxers, he had 105 goals and 92 assists in 67 games, which is a lot even for the OMHA. As well as winning the OHL Cup, the Waxers were undefeated in league games, and won silver medals in the Ontario Provincial and Silver Stick tournaments.
Stamkos’ play garnered attention from everywhere, obviously, but he had help. Also on his Waxers team (here is a partial roster) was Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, and retired Vancouver Canucks first-round draft pick Cody Hodgson.
Although they only played together for a year, the memories of that team are still strong. NHL.com wrote these vivid lines about the chemistry of Stamkos, Del Zotto, and Hodgson:
"People would come out to watch our team play because of the skill levels of the players," said Paul Titanic, who coached the midget-minor Waxers. "The passing on the power play -- Steven and Michael and Cody on the ice for one power play, they all would bring their unique talents to the one power play. Michael had a great point shot, but if they took away the point shot, Steven would use his incredible one-timer off the side on an umbrella power play. If Steven was taken away, he would give it to Cody and he would take it to the net hard. You combine their unique skills and abilities ... the puck movement on the power play, that was amazing. Our team, and Steven in particular, would be the talk of the tournaments."
Stamkos and Del Zotto continued to make waves together, making history by getting drafted first and second overall in the OHL draft. Stamkos famously went to the Sarnia Sting (more on that from ElSeldo at some point in this series), and Del Zotto went to the Oshawa Generals.
Likely because he spent so much time in the program, Stamkos keeps himself involved with the Markham Waxers, despite the fact that the organization had to take a bit of a hiatus in 2012.
In 2008, Stamkos and his teammates were honored by the Waxers, and showed up wearing the jerseys of their professional teams.
In 2011, Stamkos’ team was invited back for a Hometown Hockey reunion on the golf course.
Most recently, during the 2015-16 season, Stamkos gifted Waxers player Ben Carr with a box of hockey gear and a trip to watch a Tampa Bay Lightning game, to reward him for his involvement in the Markham community.
I couldn’t find any footage from Stamkos’ midget-minor team (if you have better Google-foo than I do, please provide in comments), but instead, please have some footage of a 10-year-old Stamkos, Del Zotto, and Tyler Johnson (!) playing together in the year 2000’s Super Novice Brick Hockey Tournament in Edmonton.