With a father already in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stastny had something to prove the moment he first laced up his skates and picked up a hockey stick. Now at just 21 years old, the Colorado Avalanche prospect is fighting to make a name for himself in the world’s best hockey league.
“It feels good [to be in the NHL]. I’m just always trying to [continue to give] the family name a good reputation,” said Stastny.
Thus far, the center has lived up to the Stastny family name and has begun to make quite a name for himself. After just 49 games into his first NHL season, the rookie ranks third overall on the team and third overall among all NHL rookies in points scored with 39. While averaging considerable ice time (17:21 minutes per game), Stastny has also contributed four power-play goals and more impressively leads the team with four game-winning goals.
“[He’s] just playing really good hockey. Nobody expected that [he] could be that good and basically [he and Wolski] are helping us every game so we are glad we have them on the team,” said Milan Hejduk.
While Hejduk and the rest of the Avalanche are quickly finding the young center indispensable, Stastny has made it a habit to become a big part of every team he’s played on. In just two years at the NCAA level, the 6’, 205-pound center scored 98 points in just 81 games with the University of Denver while helping the team to two consecutive national championships. Individually he also excelled, capturing the WCHA Rookie of the Year honors in his first year at the NCAA level and in his second, capturing the WCHA league scoring title. Suffice it to say, the Avs had big expectations for the former Pioneers center entering this season but he has still managed to surpass all expectations and impress his coaches and teammates.
“Paul has been so good for us,” Colorado head coach Joel Quenneville gushed.
“He reminds me so much of his father where the puck follows him around and the patience and the vision with the puck [he has]. The nice part about him is he has that real intuition without the puck that he’s always in the right spot. So defensively we’re real, real comfortable with him in all situations. He’s progressed along here where he’s had a great start to his career.”
With 14 goals and 25 assists already in the books, the St. Louis native has done more than just have a great start to his career, he has excelled. With help from the NHL’s rules and the league’s continued crackdown on obstruction, Stastny himself has even been surprised at how easy his adjustment from college hockey to the NHL has been.
“I think I was surprised a little bit [at the transition]. I didn’t expect too much. I didn’t want to go in there expecting anything because maybe I’d let myself down so I just went in there trying to compete every day and the points have been a bonus.”
Undoubtedly Stastny’s father, Peter, has also had an impact on the younger Stastny’s transition to the NHL and his play in general. In fact, the younger Stastny chose to wear #26 for the regular season in honor of the number his father wore while playing for the Quebec Nordiques. And while it would be easy to assume that the NHL hall of famer is the lone reason his son in excelling on the ice that would be far from true. In fact, according to Paul, his father has had the biggest impact in helping his son adjust to NHL life off the ice.
“[My dad] watches every game and he gives his insight but I’m so used to it,” said Stastny smiling. “I think he’s just trying to fine tune all my aspects of my game and being an all around player. He also gives a lot of tips off the ice and that’s [been] more important than on the ice.”
While the Avs 2005 second-round draft pick has already achieved some level of success on the ice, he attributes much of his success to his teammates and in particular his linemates right wing Milan Hejduk and left wing Andrew Brunette.
“I’ve just been working hard and I think I’m a smart enough player that you know that when you play with good players you just keep it simple. You give it to players who can score and you get open for players who pass and it’s easy like that.”
For now, Stastny is not concentrating on his own success but has been focused on his team’s play – and for good reason.
Just following the All Star break, the Colorado Avalanche are engaged in one of the tightest division battles in all of the NHL. Just seven points separate the top team from the bottom team in the Northwest Division, making each all the more important. With 52 points and a record of 24-20-4, the Avs are seven points out of first place and are very aware of their place in the standings.
“We’re well aware of what’s going on and the jockeying that’s gone on, that taking place in our division,” said Quenneville. “Every night things can change.”
“It makes every game bigger for us even those non-divisional games,” agreed Stastny. “The division games are big and these non-division games we’ve been playing against the top teams lately. So you got to make these games like a playoff game and that’s the way we think. That’s our mentality.”
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.