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Spotlight is on Stastny

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When people talk about the future of hockey it doesn't take long for Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin's names to come up in the conversation.

However, if Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche is able to maintain his amazing start to the season, his name could soon be added to that list.

Since Crosby and Ovechkin came into the league in 2005-06, their scoring prowess has made them two of the game's most bankable names. Many hockey experts have lobbied to get young defenseman Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames mentioned in the same category, but the bruising blueliner has still yet to become a household name.

Stastny, on the other hand, has a name that will be very familiar to even lapsed hockey fans, those folks who haven't paid much attention to the sport in recent years. You see, Stastny is the son of Hall-of-Famer Peter Stastny and the nephew of former NHLers Anton and Marian Stastny.

That pedigree didn't help Stastny garner a great deal of hype before his NHL career began. In fact, unlike Crosby and Ovechkin, Stastny wasn't the overall No. 1 pick in the draft, but was selected by the Avalanche in the second round (44th overall) of the 2005 draft.

Stastny, 21, turned in a superb rookie season a year ago, as he notched 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) while playing in all 82 games for Colorado. Only Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored more points among rookies in the NHL last year. In the end, it was Malkin who walked away with the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, and Stastny had to settle for second in the voting. It would have been special for Stastny to win the award since his father was the Calder recipient for the 1980-81 campaign.

Paul Stastny
Paul Stastny notched 78 points while playing in all 82 games for Colorado a season ago.
However, in the earliest stages of the 2007-08 NHL season, Stastny has few peers in terms of putting points on the scoresheet. Following Colorado's first three games of the season, the youngster had already piled up eight points (4g, 4a), and had a pair of career-best performances.

In Colorado's first game of the season, Stastny recorded his first-ever hat trick, as he posted three goals in his club's win over Dallas. After the Avs were shut out in Nashville in Game 2, Stastny bounced back with a career-best five-point performance in a victory over the San Jose Sharks on October 7.

For his early-season efforts, Stastny was listed No. 1 on the NHL's Three Stars of the Week.

Stastny was born in Quebec City, Quebec on December 27, 1985, when his father was a member of the Quebec Nordiques, the franchise that eventually became the Avalanche. In fact, Stastny is still the second-leading scorer in Quebec/Colorado history with 1,048 points in 10 seasons with the Nordiques.

Despite spending his early years in Quebec, Stastny grew up mainly in the United States and graduated from Millard North High School in Omaha, Nebraska before turning in two exceptional seasons at the University of Denver. Stastny won an NCAA title with the Pioneers in 2005, and displayed his ability to come through in the clutch when he helped Denver's cause with two goals and an assist in the championship game against North Dakota.

Stastny has big shoes to fill not only in his family, but also if he intends to become the leader of the Avalanche. Joe Sakic, who played with Peter Stastny with the Nordiques, has been the leader of this club since being named captain of the Quebec club for the 1992-93 season. Sakic has played his entire 19-year career with the same franchise, but the 38-year-old can't be counted on to hold the Avs captaincy forever.

The younger Stastny has the lineage to be a captain in the NHL, after all, his father wore the "C" for the Nordiques from 1985-90 and also captained the Slovak national team in various tournaments. Paul Stastny also inherited his father's ability to play on both sides of the ice, and that should help him gain his teammates' respect.

It's hard to predict what kind of NHL career Paul Stastny will ultimately have considering he has yet to play even 100 games at this level. Still, Stastny's knack for scoring can hardly be a coincidence when one takes a glimpse at his family tree.

Crosby and Ovechkin's names have been rightfully linked with the future of hockey since they first stepped on NHL ice, but those players will have to make some room at the top soon if Stastny continues his rise to prominence.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.
Dan Di Sciullo