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Paul Stastny carves out his own niche

by Shawn P. Roarke /

Paul Stastny is congratulated by Andrew Brunette after Stastny completed a hat trick against the Dallas Stars Oct. 3, 2007.
Paul Stastny is keeping some pretty heady company in the Colorado Avalanche record book.

Last season, as a rookie, the 21-year-old Stastny scored 78 points – the fourth-highest total by a rookie in franchise history. Amazingly, he only ranks fourth among members of his family in that same category in the franchise’s record book.

Stastny’s father, Peter, tops the list with his 109-point debut season for the then-Quebec Nordiques in 1980-81. Uncles Marian (89 in 1981-82) and Anton (85 in 1980-81) are second and third, respectively, on the list.

That’s a pretty impressive feat for one of hockey’s royal families. But it is Paul Stastny’s place in that royal family that keeps the youngest member in his proper place.

Paul also has an older brother, Yan, who plays in St. Louis’ minor-league system.

“My dad tries to keep it low-profile and doesn’t want anybody’s head to get too big,” Paul says. “I think I was raised that way. It’s not something we talk about. Maybe, in the future, down the road. Obviously, it was just one year and he wants me to get better and better.”

That message has clearly been delivered with stunning clarity.

He opened his sophomore season with a hat trick and added a five-point night in the third game of the season. Eight points in three games was more than enough to see Stastny named the NHL’s First Star for the week ending Oct. 8.

But don’t come to the wrong conclusion. The elder Stastnys are not ones to hold onto their records protectively, refusing to acknowledge or support the efforts of the second generation. Rather, they know the difficulties of maintaining greatness and want to prepare their offspring for the rigors that lie ahead.

Peter Stastny scored 1,239 points in 977 NHL games, earning a berth in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. Yet he takes more pride in the exploits of his two sons.

“He’s really proud of me,” Paul says of his dad. “I don’t like talking about stuff like that and he knows that, so he doesn’t bring it up and talk about it because he can be the same way.”

Humility, along with a sweet scoring touch, seems to be hard-wired into the DNA of all the Stastnys.

Paul closed his first NHL season with one of the best runs ever turned in by a rookie. From Feb. 3 to March 17, Stastny went 20-straight games with at least one point – a NHL record for rookies. He also finished second to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin in the voting for the Calder Trophy.

How impressive was the 20-game points streak? Consider this: Malkin never scored in more than seven-straight games last season. Also, only two players – Dany Heatley (22 games in 2005-06) and Adam Oates (20 in 1996-97) have scored in 20 or more consecutive games since the 1993-94 season. Finally, Hall of Famers Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, the game’s all-time leading scorer, are the only players younger than Stastny to turn in a run of 20 games or better.

‘That’s the first time I have ever heard that,” Paul Stastny says when informed of the elite company he is keeping. “That’s probably something I will look back at later. I don’t think too much about it now. Like I said before, we were making a playoff run and I was able to keep my mind away from (the scoring streak). I think it happened at a good time and the team was winning. It just made it that much easier.”

Paul proudly wears his father's old number.
Like his very famous father and his nearly-as-famous uncles, Paul Stastny makes the game look easy. He has grown up in the shadow of their exploits for his whole life. Everywhere he and his older brother, Yan, have gone, the Statsny name and legend has loomed almost oppressively.

Yet Paul Stastny remains faithful to his roots, refusing to resent the expectations that previous Stastnys have placed upon him by raising the bar to almost unimaginable heights through their own on-ice accomplishments.

He proudly wears his dad’s No. 26, having assumed it from John-Michael Liles early last season.

“A number is just a number,” he says, trying to dismiss the now-tangible link between the Stastny generations. “I don’t think the number affected me, but when I got it, it was just icing on the cake.”

He talks openly about the idea of one day playing with Yan in the NHL, hopefully reprising the championship story authored by the Niedermayer brothers – Scott and Rob – last season in Anaheim.

He also talks proudly about the accomplishments of his family and how they have shaped him as a player.

At age 11 or so, he remembers taking a trip to Slovakia to visit family. At one point, he found himself on the ice with Yan, his father, several uncles – including Anton and Marian – and a handful of cousins.

“Whenever we do get together, it gets intense as a family,” Paul says. “That one time we played hockey, but other times we will play soccer or whatever. It’s competitive. But you don’t want to talk too much about it because there are a lot of sore losers after those games.”

Judging by his first season-plus in the NHL, Paul Stastny could leave a lot of sore losers in his wake.

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