Thursday, November 4, 2010

Avalanche F Chris Stewart flies under radar

A quick glance at any pre-season prognosticators lists of top scorers likely did not include Colorado Avalanche forward Chris Stewart.  Stewart enjoyed a marvelous campaign last year, amassing 28 goals and 64 points in 77 games.  As impressive as that is, it does not really tell the full story.  See, Stewart, a first round pick (18th overall) in 2006 accomplished that in his first full season in the league.  He even began last year's campaign rather slowly when he was mired on one of the bottom lines in Colorado, with one goal and five assists in the first 18 games of the year.  After a 5-2 loss against Vancouver where he played only eight minutes, the Avalanche moved Stewart to their top line, and they haven't really looked back.

Since that game, Stewart recorded 27 goals and 58 points in his next 59 games.  That would put him on pace for about a 40 goal, 80 point campaign.

A budding power forward, Stewart measures in at 6'2" and 228, yet when the games better power forwards are mentioned, his name seldom comes up.  As the Denver Post reports, Stewart was once labeled as a guy unconcerned about his commitment to conditioning, at times subtly criticized for being overweight and slow on the ice.

But let's be honest here. In 2008-09, Stewart did collect 19 points in 53 games while averaging 12:16 in ice time per game, and he's only moved forward from there.  This year, Stewart already has 16 points in 11 games, including a hat-trick as a recent part of an active eight game point streak where he has recorded 8 goals and 6 assists.

Long story short - the guy is good.  So why the lack of notoriety?  Many fantasy hockey publications predicted Stewart to actually drop his totals from the previous year, but why?  A full year on the top line would represent a larger opportunity for him to solidify himself as one of the league's best young power forwards. Those 18 games he spent toiling in the bottom six surely did him no favours on the scoreboard. 

Colorado fans are certainly high on him, and Western Conference teams have already learned a lesson to not leave him alone in front of the net.  A strong, right handed forward with a sneaky release, Stewart will be on more people's radar sooner rather than later if he keeps this up. While the media may not have noticed (despite Adrian Dater in Colorado and ESPN's  EJ Hradek), they will soon.  Stewart was recently named the NHL's third star of the month behind Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Boston's Tim Thomas.

So if you see Chris Stewart available in your hockey pool, you best grab him now.

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