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Chill factor

"He contributed more during his freshman year than any other freshman forward I've ever coached," says Head Coach George Gwozdecky about forward Paul Stastny. Photo: Michael Richmond

If you pricked one of Paul Stastny’s veins, it’s a good bet that along with blood, you’d find some ice flowing in there.

There has to be. What else can explain his phenomenal first year playing DU hockey?

As a first-year forward last season, Stastny took home rookie-of-the-year honors from both the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and United States College Hockey Online. He ranked second in points scored (45), two of which were in the national championship game when the Pioneers slammed North Dakota 4-1. He was ranked third in the nation among freshmen scoring at least 1.07 points per game, and with 45 points scored, he tied for first among WCHA freshmen. He also led all other WCHA rookies with 31 points in league play.

“He contributed more during his freshman year than any other freshman forward I’ve ever coached,” says Head Coach George Gwozdecky. “And, he has hockey sense. That’s how we describe a player who anticipates what’s going to happen before it actually does. That makes him an offensive threat whenever he gets the puck.”

“When I’m on the ice, I can see two or three options where other players might only see one,” Stastny explains. “I think that helps me be a good playmaker sometimes, and maybe a good set-up man.”

Stastny may have a mind for hockey, but he also has the breeding for it. His father, Peter, played in the NHL for 16 years and is a member of hockey’s hall of fame. (Peter Stastny was second only to Wayne Gretzky in scoring during the 1980s.) Peter Stastny’s two brothers also played in the pros; in 1981, the sibling trio played with the Quebec Nordiques — the first trio of brothers to play on the same professional hockey team.

“I’m so fortunate,” Paul Stastny says. “I know a lot of my talent comes from my dad.”

Despite his natural talent and extraordinary record, Stastny is far from satisfied and describes his shot-making as just OK.

“I’m working on a quicker release for my shots, I need to be more consistent, and I’m going to work on my speed, too,” he says.

But just how much better can he become?

“A lot,” says his dad. But, he quickly adds that the younger Stastny already is “better in every aspect of the game, except skating, than I was at his age.”

“Dad’s thrilled with my success as long as I work to get better,” Stastny says.

His earliest memory of hockey was as a 5-year-old on a rink in Quebec, where he lived until he was 9. His family then moved to St. Louis. “I remember playing a lot on this pond near our house,” Stastny recalls.

From there, his talent developed impressively. Consider this: Before coming to DU, he was the second-most prolific scorer in the United States Hockey League, posting 80 points on 31 goals and 49 assists in 59 games.

Stastny, a business major, says DU is the right fit for him both on and off the ice. “The coaches are top quality, and they don’t try to change the kind of player you are,” he says. “They work with you as you are.”

Stastny’s innate talent hasn’t gone unnoticed. This summer, the Colorado Avalanche drafted him in the second round.

But are his days at DU numbered? “I’m taking it a year at a time,” Stastny says. “I do want to play in the pros, but education is very important. I’ll end up with a degree, that’s for sure.”

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