NHL Draft: Family Matters

July 28, 2005

NHL Draft
NHL Draft Preview Schedule
(July 25th-30th)
Tuesday, July 26:

As the son of a NHL legend, Paul Stastny is no stranger to high expectations.

But, on the heels of an outstanding freshman campaign that saw the southpaw forward lead Denver to a second consecutive national title, it would seem that nobody is better equipped to handle them.


"He is maybe the most complete player as a freshman perhaps that I've ever coached," says Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky. "I think he's very gifted and he's worked extremely hard."


Paul's father, Peter, was the most prolific scorer in the NHL this side of Wayne Gretzky during the 1980s. After a 16-year career that included stints with Quebec, New Jersey and St. Louis, he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998.


"He grew up watching his father play and watching the Nordiques play and being completely immersed in the hockey world," Gwozdecky says. "I think there's a strong case to be made for the gene pool. There's no question that there's certain things Paul has that you can't teach -- he's got a great vision for the game, a great sense for the game."


While Stastny is hardly a physical slouch (6-foot, 210 pounds), it's this seemingly preternatural feel for the action that has set him apart.


"I think he sees things before they happen which makes him more successful," says CSTV analyst Dave Starman. "He's one of those guys that wants the puck, and when he has it he knows what to do with it. He's not selfish, yet he doesn't move the puck for the sake of making people happy."


Stastny, a business major, is currently ranked among the top 75 North American skaters according to the Central Scouting Service, which would project him for selection in the fourth or fifth round of Saturday's NHL Entry Draft. But with his well-known pedigree and the league's inclination toward American-born players in the wake of the lockout, the St. Louis native could go as high as the third.


Upon his arrival on campus one year ago, it didn't take Stastny long to realize the hype that surrounds any blue chip recruit. Described as a powerful skater with good speed, his 45 points -- on 17 goals and 28 assists -- were good for second on the team in scoring and tied him for first in the nation among rookies. As a result, he garnered WCHA and USCHO Rookie of the Year honors.


What's more, Stastny was at his best when the spotlight shone the brightest. In the national championship game against North Dakota, he deposited two goals and added an assist on the empty-netter that iced the victory.


"He's maybe the smartest player at reading the play at Denver, and definitely the shiftiest -- which is impressive considering they have guys like [Gabe] Gauthier and [Luke] Fulghum," says CSTV analyst Billy Jaffe. "I like the way that he's patient with the puck. He doesn't force things, and I think that's something he just learned from being in his family."


While the rising sophomore is well on his way to carving a name for himself, he doesn't downplay the advantage that his father provides him.


"Everything I've learned, I've learned from him," the junior Stastny says. "If I ever have any problems or questions, I look to him for advice."


Though he aspires to play professional hockey, Stastny doesn't appear to be in any rush. With a Frozen Four crown in the rear-view mirror, he continues to work hard with his Denver teammates to improve his fundamental skills, knowing that the target on his team's collective back is only growing.


"As a team, we can't do any better but, as individuals, everybody can keep developing," says Stastny. "I've been working on my quickness [during the off-season], and power off my first step."


As the Pioneers make designs on a third straight national championship -- an attainable goal, according to many hockey pundits -- the 19-year-old speaks with the reserved wisdom of a seasoned vet.


"We're going to take it one step at a time," Stastny says. "We can't look at what we did last year, because we're a whole new team. We just want to play our best, day in, day out. If we do that, we'll have a great shot to defend whatever title we're defending, because when we play our best, we're a great team all-around."


Bryan Armen Graham is an assistant editor for CSTV.com.



Men's Ice Hockey Home

Paul Stastny