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By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published January 16, 2008
Last preseason, he was fighting for a roster spot. Later this month, Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny will play in his first NHL All-Star Game, at the age of 22. After placing second in last year's rookie of the year voting, Stastny entered Tuesday night's game against the Lightning leading the Avalanche with 31 assists and 47 points. In November, he became just the sixth active player to record 100 points in fewer than 100 games. And he is the sixth-fastest player to 100 points in team history. The fastest? His father, Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, who scored 450 NHL goals and had his number retired by the Quebec Nordiques, who later moved to Denver and became the Avalanche (Paul now wears Peter's No. 26). Stastny talked Tuesday about playing in a hockey family, putting his trust in wood and where he would draft himself in fantasy hockey.
So were you surprised with the success you had last year, coming on the NHL scene and scoring 78 points as a rookie when you were just fighting for a spot out of camp?
I really didn't have any expectations. I just started at the same level everyone did and just tried to work hard from there. When you're playing with some of these players around you, they make the game so much easier for you so if you keep the game simple and you're playing with a few All-Stars who can move the puck and put the puck in the net, you just know who to get the puck to and you know they're going to get open so it makes it easier.
Coming from a hockey family, your dad played and two uncles also played for the Nordiques, has your NHL experience been different than what you expected it to be?
It was a little different I guess because my dad would say certain things. But times change from the '80s to now. I've heard from a lot of people what to prepare for and what to expect so I've been raised around a lot of hockey people and a lot of great hockey players. I befriended a lot of players, so I would just listen to their stories and soak up everything they said and just try to be prepared for everything.
So since you were surrounded by hockey, did you pick up a stick at a young age?
Growing up in Quebec, you always play on the ponds because there's so much snow there. You always have to be playing outdoors with all your buddies in the neighborhood so I guess it was maybe 3 or 4 when I picked up my first stick. But it wasn't forced on me. It was something that came by natural habit. Just being raised in a hockey family, you're around hockey players.
Speaking of sticks, you're one of the few players who uses a wooden stick. Why buck the trend? Are you just more comfortable with wood?
That's exactly what it is. Whatever's comfortable out there. It might be a little heavy, but to get a feel for the puck with a wood stick I think it's a little easier for me passing-wise and controlling the puck and on the faceoff. I've been using it for the last 15 or so years, so I'm so used to it that I don't feel like I need to change anything.
What's your most prized possession, an award or championship you might have won that really means the most to you?
I think freshman year of college (at the University of Denver) winning the national championship was quite a feat. Now making it to the NHL and making it to my first All-Star Game, I'm trying to build on it and trying to keep getting better and better. So I'm always trying to raise my expectations on things like that, but I think team awards are the most important ones and that's one of them.
When people talk about the NHL's youth movement, they always talk about the same names - Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Do you think you're in the same pool as those guys, guys who will take the game into the future?
Those guys are the cream of the crop. They're changing the NHL. They're going to be the future of the NHL for the next 15, 20 years. They're just unbelievable players, so when they talk about those guys, they've earned the respect because they're the top players in the league right now. You really don't try to be in the same category as them.
I've heard you're a big fantasy sports guy? What do you play?
A. Oh, yeah, baseball and football.
So who would be your top draft pick in football for next year if you had the top overall pick?
It all depends on how they take the stats, probably someone like Adrian Peterson or LaDainian Tomlinson first overall. Or maybe someone like (Tom) Brady. It all depends on how your scoring is, because with all his weapons it makes him really dangerous.
What about if you were playing fantasy hockey? Who would be your No. 1 pick?
I don't know. I think goalies are always the toughest to come around so I would think you'd want to get a goalie early on and then each round you try to get someone with a lot of skill but at the same time gets a couple of PIMs (penalty minutes) here and there so you can rack up all the points. I don't know. I think hockey would be so much more open and there would be so many more options. Maybe it would be easier for me since I know all the players so if I ever played that I would have a head start on them.
And what round would Paul Stastny go in?
(Laughter) Oh, man, I don't know. I really don't know. That's the least of my worry. I don't think I'd take myself anywhere near the top rounds. There's a lot of other options I'd take before me.
[Last modified January 15, 2008, 22:49:20]