After his three goal, one assist performance last night, Steven Stamkos sits alone at the top of the NHL in both goals and points.  Last season he tied Sidney Crosby to win the Rocket Richard Trophy and he’s now scored 19 goals in 19 games.  Not that this pace will continue but, if it somehow did, Stamkos would score 82 goals this season.  The last player to score over 70 was Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny in 1993.

Stamkos definitely has the attention of the hockey world.  Puck Daddy is wondering if he could score 50 goals in 50 games.  The Globe and Mail is asking if he is the new face of the NHL.  Our own Kevin Burgundy wants to know whether or not Stamkos can hit 70 this year.

By now it’s evident that Steven Stamkos can score goals.  We’ve gotten to the point where it makes sense to compare him to some of the NHL’s other great goal scorers.  Alexander Ovechkin, who won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2008 and 2009, has ten goals in 19 games this year.  His teammate Alex Semin has 14 goals and he sits second in goal scoring behind Stamkos.  Sidney Crosby sits in third with 13.

Is Stamkos a better goal scorer than those rivals?  Is he a better player?  And, perhaps most importantly, will he ever be as widely recognized and promoted as Crosby and Ovechkin?

You don’t have to be a marketing major to realize that the NHL has put almost all of their eggs into Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin’s collective basket.  Just look at the Winter Classic for further evidence of that.  Has Stamkos played well enough to be marketed to the extent that those two players are?  Or is the NHL happy with its Sid/Ovi rivalry?

Steven Stamkos plays in Tampa Bay, which could be both a blessing and a curse for him in terms of marketing potential.  The downside to playing in Florida is that the NHL is not at the forefront of many minds in that state.  Also, the state is not at the forefront of many hockey minds in the rest of the continent.  It will be hard to push a player as the face of your league when he plays in a restrictive market.  The NHL would likely never be able to stage a Winter Classic in Tampa Bay.

However, the league clearly wants hockey to be more popular in the southern United States and Stamkos may be the man that makes this possible.  Having a superstar playing in Tampa Bay will raise the prestige of the organization and sell a lot more tickets.  The Tampa Bay Lightning have an average attendance of 15,677 which fills 79.3% of their arena.  If the NHL pushed Stamkos as the proverbial ”next big thing,” and if he and the Lightning perform well this season, that number will likely go way up.

That means more money for everyone.

So is time for the NHL to add a third face to their marketing line-up and create a holy trinity of hockey?  It would likely be good for the game and also very good for Steven Stamkos.

After all, he’s done enough to distinguish himself as one of the NHL’s best.