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Old 09-29-2006, 11:35 AM   #5617
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Default Stastny has a leg up

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Joel Quenneville isn't tipping his hand just yet, but it sure sounds like a 20-year-old rookie from a prominent hockey-playing family will be in the Avalanche lineup when the 2006-07 season starts Wednesday.

That would be Paul Stastny, son of Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, who played alongside brothers Anton and Marian Stastny for the Quebec Nordiques in the 1980s.

"He looks like he belongs," Quenneville said of Paul Stastny, who left the University of Denver after his sophomore year to sign with the Avalanche in July.

"I just think as we go along here, we'll be trying different things, but he gives us one more guy who could be considered on both the power play and penalty killing. As a rookie, he's pretty impressive."

Stastny, a 6-foot, 200-pound center, played well again Wednesday in Dallas, setting up two goals in the Avalanche's 5-3 preseason victory against the Stars.

"It was fun to play because (the Stars) had almost their full NHL roster," Stastny said. "I feel good, but whatever happens, happens. I'll be ready for anything."

Stastny laughed when asked if he feels like a professional now.

"Ever since the first day of training camp when I barely had to pack my bag . . . they moved everything for me," he said. "They treat you well here."

The Avalanche drafted Stastny with its second-round pick (44th overall) in 2005 after he helped DU win the second of its back-to-back NCAA championships.

He produced 17 goals and 28 assists in 42 games as a freshman, including two goals and one assist in the Pioneers' 4-1 win against North Dakota in the title game.

Last year, Stastny collected 19 goals and 34 assists in 39 games. He led the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in scoring with 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 28 games, was a first team all-conference selection and was a third team All-American.

"He's been a special player everywhere he's been," Quenneville said. "He's been a top producer. Coming in and winning a championship as a freshman, playing special teams, playing a lot of minutes . . . he was one of their top guys."

If Stastny makes the Avalanche's 23-man roster, it's likely it would be as a third-line center - behind Joe Sakic and Tyler Arnason.

Brett McLean and Brad Richardson are the other centers in camp, along with Pierre Turgeon, who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery and hasn't played in any exhibition games.

Stastny won't win too many speedskating competitions, but he manages to get to where he needs to be quickly enough and isn't easily knocked off the puck.

He also always seems to know where his teammates are on the ice, the kind of awareness that can't be taught.

In Wednesday's game, he made pinpoint passes to Milan Hejduk and Ian Laperriere that resulted in goals.

The pass to Laperriere, who scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period, was zipped by a sliding Stars defenseman.

"I just think his overall hockey sense," Quenneville said when asked what has most impressed him about the youngster. "He's a hockey player. I mean, his positioning around the ice, how he keeps himself in the play, his patience with the puck down low below the hash marks . . . his play selection is top end. He's got a real bright future."

Stastny has totaled three assists in four preseason games and scored two goals in shootouts, one of which gave the Avalanche a 3-2 victory in Detroit a week ago.

"The first day of training camp, you're always nervous," he said. "Every day, I get less and less nervous. It's good to have confidence. Having fun out there is basically where the confidence comes from.

"I felt I could be ready (for the NHL). It was just the speed up here. I just want to keep getting better. I'm young, only 20, so technically, I've still got five or six years before I hit my prime. I just want to keep getting better every day, that's what's important."

CHARITY EVENT: The Avalanche will return to practice today after holding its annual charity golf tournament Thursday at The Ridge at Castle Pines North. The event raised $75,000, upping the tournament's total to $750,000 since the franchise has been in Colorado.
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