There’s a slot in the Ducks lineup that is perfect for Chris Stewart.
The departure of Matt Beleskey (and his 22 goals) created the need for a grinding, physical forward capable of delivering the big hit and finding the back of the net. It’s a perfect opportunity for Stewart, the one-time 20-goal scorer looking to reignite his offensive game, and he expressed his enthusiasm soon after signing with Anaheim.
“I’d have to say that was a pretty good moment, a big highlight of the off-season,” Stewart said after inking a one-year deal. “It’s a really good opportunity for me.”
Stewart spent last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild, collecting 14 goals and 36 points with 88 penalty minutes. After opening the season with Buffalo, he was acquired by Minnesota on March 2for a second-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. He posted three goals and 11 points with a plus-4 rating and 25 penalty minutes in 20 games with the Wild, helping the club clinch a Wild Card berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In eight postseason games, Stewart earned two assists with two penalty minutes.
While right wing remains a deep position for the Ducks, it isn’t out of the question that Stewart can carve out a regular role in the lineup. At 6-2 and 231-pounds, he’s a difficult player to move from the front of the net. Many of his shots and goals come from in front, where Stewart can use his size for deflections and tip-ins.
A little luck would help, too. Stewart posted a career-low 9.0 shooting percentage last season. His PDO (on-ice save percentage plus on-ice shooting percentage) sat at 99.1-percent, the lowest in his last five seasons. Starting most of his even-strength shifts in his own end (36.4% - highest in his career) certainly affected those numbers.
Like many other veteran acquisitions, Stewart brings one more element to Anaheim – a strong desire to win.
“It was certainly one of those days you’re going to remember for a long time, getting that chance to come to a team that can win a Stanley Cup,” he said. “It’s a great fit for me.”
Don’t let his size fool you – Stewart has soft hands and a sweet release to go with his imposing frame. He put both on display with the Wild just 13 seconds into the second period in a late-season matchup against the New Jersey Devils.
Mikko Koivu came down the wing, firing a quick wrist shot on Cory Schneider. The puck came to Stewart, who quickly put the puck from his forehand to backhand. His shot slipped between Schneider’s pads for the goal.
Stewart would later add an assist – jarring a puck loose from the net mouth to keep the offensive pressure – for his first multi-point effort in a Wild sweater.