There used to be a time when power forwards were not deemed necessary for a championship fantasy hockey roster. But with post-lockout rule changes aimed at opening up the game, power forwards have become increasingly attractive. However, with the prototypical power forward taking longer to develop, we often give up too early.
In one of the most surprising trades this season, the Colorado Avalanche shipped power forward Chris Stewart to the St. Louis Blues, among other notable players exchanged. In Chris’ short 182 game career, he managed to demolish one team in particular night in and night out, scoring eight goals and seven assists in only nine games. That team was the St. Louis Blues. With those numbers it’s no surprise Doug Armstrong wanted to acquire Stewart, but the fact that he pulled it off was rather eye-opening. To date, Chris Stewart has scored more points against the Blues than any other NHL team.
When Stewart was breaking into the OHL, his best shot at sticking with the team was to drop his gloves. While that is still an important aspect of his game, Stewart also wanted to prove he had offensive ability. In 2005-06, Chris came up big scoring 87 points and adding 118 PIM in 62 OHL games. That summer he would reap even more benefits from the breakout season as the Colorado Avalanche took him in the first round, number 18 overall. Stewart went on to show his consistency in 2006-07, posting merely identical numbers to his previous season (36-46-82 and 108 PIM in 61 games). It was also the first and only time Stewart was an alternate captain.
After only one season in the OHL post-draft, Stewart signed his first professional contract and skated in the AHL with the Albany River Rats. He played a full season in the AHL in 2007-08 before spending the bulk of his time in 08-09 with the Colorado Avalanche. Despite being a first round selection, Stewart was a 21 year old emerging power forward with no international experience, no MVP awards to pad his resume, no playoff series wins, and nothing really to show for himself other than his work for Kingston and Lake Erie. Most players in his shoes would need a couple more years worth of seasoning before they played 53 NHL games in a season. The fact that Chris did it so quickly is just one more sign of how special of a player he really is.
Factoring his rookie season’s stats out due to adjustment to the size and speed of the NHL, Stewart’s stats are quite impressive. He has 106 points in 128 games. That’s a 0.82 point per game average, which translates to a 68 point season. On top of that, he has 122 penalty minutes across that stretch. Essentially, in his young NHL career, his average should be close to a 65-70 point season with about 80 penalty minutes. On this pace, Stewart would have 59 points and 68 PIM right now. That would put him in a tie for 29th in the NHL in points with Briere and Marleau. Players that have at least 50 points and 68 PIM right now include only Lucic, Perry, Backes, Clowe, Briere, and Stamkos.
The stats above should have already piqued your interest, but there are two more things to keep in mind. Outside of Backes, the players above all skate for a team with at least 39 wins. Colorado has only 27 on the year and St. Louis has 32. Essentially, Stewart has been performing extremely well on the second-worst team in the league. The next thing to keep in mind is the way St. Louis is built. They have a ton of talent in the pipeline and will develop into a very strong team rather quickly. St. Louis also has one of the best goalies in the game in Halak and once the team clicks, they’re going to be scary good.
Over the course of Stewart’s limited career, he has shown phenomenal consistency. He typically requires an adjustment period and then he takes off. For the next couple seasons, you should be able to expect anywhere from 64-72 points with about 75-85 penalty minutes. If he is able to elevate his game to that of an 80 point player, we likely won’t find out until about his fifth season in the NHL. Then again, this power forward is way ahead of the development curve, so anything is possible.
When investing, expect the stat line that Stewart has shown he is capable of, but know that there’s an above average chance that Stewart could become a 75-80 point player with 80 PIMs in the next couple seasons.
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