Long seen as a 1-2 battle between Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin and Los Angeles Kings centre Anze Kopitar, the 21-year-old Stastny is having his say with a 17-game point streak that ties the NHL record for rookies.
Now Stastny is getting more recognition around the league.
“He should,” Avs head coach Joel Quenneville said Thursday. “The consistency of his play is the best part about his game. Every night he does all the things well. His bonus is his point production. I think the streak gets him a little more recognition and attention but his contribution to our team game has been outstanding.”
Stastny extended his point streak to 17 games Wednesday night with a pair of assists in a 3-2 win at Buffalo, tying the rookie mark set in 1993 by Winnipeg’s Teemu Selanne. Stastny also set the franchise rookie record, breaking the 16-game mark set by his father, Peter, in 1980 with the then-Quebec Nordiques.
“Just to have me and my dad right there for that record is a pretty neat thing,” the young Stastny said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Thursday.
The apple doesn’t appear to fall far from the tree. Peter Stastny was one of the game’s greats and a Hockey Hall of Fame member.
“He reminds me of his dad in a lot of ways,” said Quenneville, who played against Peter Stastny. “When he’s got the puck down low on the power play. When he’s got the puck at the side of the net, it’s exactly like his dad. He just knows how to keep himself in the play.”
Another point in Sunday’s game at Minnesota breaks the rookie record, but Stastny insists he’s not focused on that right now.
“It really doesn’t mean as much to me right now as trying to get to the playoffs,” he said. “It’s all about the team right now. Maybe in the summer time I’ll look back and reflect on it.”
Another Penguin, 18-year-old Jordan Staal, is making a case, too, but Malkin, Stastny and Kopitar are probably the three favourites right now.
“I just wish them the best,” Stastny said. “Kopitar was born in ’87, what he’s doing is amazing, he’s so young. Malkin has been great, too.”
Stastny moved past the injured Kopitar for second in the rookie points race. He has 65 points (22-43) in 68 games. Malkin is first with 69 points (29-40) in 62 games before taking on New Jersey on Thursday night. Kopitar, who hasn’t played since Feb. 24, is third with 56 points (18-38) in 63 games.
“I never expected too much this year,” Stastny said. “I expected the worst and hoped for the best. Just from the get-go, after I made the team, I just put my best foot forward from there and didn’t look too far ahead. That’s been my philosophy my whole year.”
Stastny, Colorado’s second-round pick, 44th overall, in the 2005 NHL entry draft, wasn’t expected to have this kind of impact in his first year out of the University of Denver.
“He’s been better than real good,” Quenneville said. “And he’s been like that all year right from the outset. At camp we didn’t think he’d made our team but he was one of our top guys at camp. We’ve given him all kinds of responsibility. Every challenge you put in front of him, he just grabs it. …
“What’s amazing with him is that as good as he is offensively and as good as he sees plays, his positional play around the ice without the puck is perfect. It’s unbelievable.”
Stastny was born in Quebec City while father still played for the Nordiques. Then came New Jersey when he was four years old followed by his father’s last NHL stop, St. Louis, in Grade 3, where Paul Stastny basically grew up.
“We also have a family house in Slovakia,” Stastny said. “We used to go there every summer. We still try to make it there a lot.”
Paul’s older brother Yan Stastny is in the St. Louis Blues organization. Peter Stastny played with brothers Anton and Marian in Quebec and Paul believes that would be great if one day Yan played with him in the NHL.
“That would be neat. Hopefully our roads cross in the future. That would be nice.”