BUFFALO, N.Y. — As team executives began gathering on the arena floor an hour before the start of the NHL draft’s second round Saturday morning, a video highlighting former No. 1 selections began playing on the big-screen video boards.

The first player featured just happened to be Steven Stamkos, the top pick in 2008.

At a time when Arizona-born center Auston Matthews was selected first by Toronto, and on the heels of the buzz the league’s expansion into Las Vegas created, the Tampa Bay Lightning captain’s presence during the two-day draft in Buffalo was hard to overlook.

Stamkos is set to be, as Sabres General Manager Tim Murray put it, the potential “big fish” in the league’s free-agency period, which opens Friday.

Buffalo, Boston and Vancouver are among the teams to have already expressed interest in Stamkos.

And others, as in the case of Toronto and Detroit, have freed up more than $10 million in salary cap space with an expectation they will jump into the bidding for the four-time, 40-goal scorer.

Meantime, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said, “I haven’t ruled out anything just yet. The process hasn’t changed.”

Stamkos heads a list of pending free agents that includes St. Louis center David Backes, New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo and Los Angeles forward Milan Lucic. Other players could be available by trade, including Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler

HALL OF FAME: The weakest first-time eligible group in decades has left the doors open to the Hockey Hall of Fame for several players who have been awaiting the call.

Eric Lindros has been waiting six years, Mark Recchi three, Dave Andreychuk eight and Sergei Makarov 16. This could finally be the year, as the Hall of Fame selection committee determines the class of 2016 on Monday.

Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, defenseman Roman Hamrlik and forwards Milan Hejduk and Vinny Prospal headline the first-year eligible players.