Colorado Avalanche prospect Paul Stastny made an immediate impact with the University of Denver during the 2004-05 season. After racking up points, awards and winning a national title in his first season with the Pioneers last year, he’s back for his sophomore tour.
The electric forward has already stepped up this year and once again established himself as a leader and one of Coach George Gwozdecky’s go-to guys. He leads the team with 17 points in 11 games. Even though Stastny is thankful for his great start, he vows to get the Pioneers on path to success.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Stastny at Magness Arena during the series against the University of Minnesota. We touched on his big freshman year, this season and the success of the program.
HF: What was it like to come in as a freshman and help DU defend the title, and win your first in 2005?
PS: It was unreal. It was a little nerve-wracking at first. It was pretty intense with the band and all. I knew we had beaten Minnesota three times already during the regular season and I was thinking it was going to be tough to pull off the fourth victory. We got our bounces and had some solid goaltending. It was an awesome feeling to take home a championship.
HF: Was there any one aspect that made the transition into college hockey so smooth?
PS: They already had a good system. Then you have you Coach Gwozdecky. He lets you go out there and play your style of hockey. To me, that’s big. If you’re working hard and doing the right things, he doesn’t mind. Coach knows what type of players we all are, that’s why we’re put in the situations we are.
HF: Ending the season, you earned quite a few honors. How did it feel to win those as a freshman?
PS: I think it was more reflective of the good players I was fortunate to skate with. I see it as more of a team award to be honest. I mean, it was easy for me to pick up points with all that talent surrounding me. Towards the end of the year it really started clicking and we began to have a lot of fun. If you look back, my line was rolling, the power play was rolling and it seemed like everything we touched was going in.
HF: You obviously wanted to come in as a freshman and make a solid impression. Also, last year was also your draft year. Did that effect your mindset?
PS: I didn’t really try to worry about that at all. It’s one of those things that you really can’t control. You have to come in and play your game. When the draft and the award time come around, you let it take its course. Ultimately, you have no control over stuff like that.
HF: You have started out strong and are among the leaders on offense. How important is it for you to add to the scoring as well as being a leader on the ice?
PS: It’s big because we lost five big scorers from last year. These were guys who scored over 30 points last season. We still have scorers on this squad but everyone has to pick it up if we want to be as successful as we were last year. We also have to be consistent in our play. That’s how I’ve approached it and it seems to be working out.
HF: Not only can you put up points, but you also have a nice physical edge to your game. How important is that aspect to you?
PS: It’s not all offense. You have to play defense and sometimes that’s playing the body. You might not being having a good night on the attack, but you can still help out in your own end playing the energy role. I’ll come out one night as the energy guy and sometimes Gauthier will take that role or Dingle will.
HF: There have been some injuries that have hindered the team’s progress. How much does that play into the bigger picture?
PS: It’s there but we can’t let it effect us. I mean, if you’re going to have the injuries, it’s best to have them early in the year. We’re playing three lines at the moment. Mentally, it makes us better players and brings our conditioning to a whole new level.
HF: What steps can you take or what steps can the team take to get back to defend another championship?
PS: We have to go out there every night, every series and outplay the competition. We can beat ourselves and we can’t help the opposition beat us. We have to give ourselves every chance to win. That means we’re going to have to pick it up on every level at every position. We knew what it took last year and it has to start now. That starts with our work ethic. If we get outworked, we’re not going to win too many games. If we outwork them, then we can focus on putting together a good run.
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