Get to Know Chris Stewart
When Chris Stewart came over to the Blues in the deal that sent Erik Johnson packing, the team’s new forward wasted no time in making a major impression on his new teammates and fans. Once the deal was made official, it was a whirlwind to the end of the year with Stewart seemingly converting on all of his opportunities. With just two months before the opener, let’s stop and take a closer look at the player that should be the driving force behind the St. Louis offense in 2011-12.
Born in Canada on October 30th, 1987, Stewart was raised by his Jamaican father and Canadian mother with six other siblings. Money was usually tight for the large family which forced Stewart to improvise with the means and supplies provided to him. His father couldn’t always afford to buy him and his brother (Carolina’s Anthony Stewart) new sticks or equipment, so they would often tape broken sticks back together in order to extend their use.
While his brother Anthony was playing hockey with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, Chris was distracted by the idea of playing football and increased his size to an immense 260 pounds. However, it was Anthony that got Chris back into hockey by convincing his brother and his coach to let him tryout with the team. Chris joined the squad as an enforcer but soon took advantage of his role and quickly became a key member of the offensive unit while shedding some of his weight to be a more productive hockey player.
Stewart’s first two seasons with the Frontenacs were tremendously successful and caused him to be drafted 18th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, ironically, just 17 spots behind Erik Johnson.
Stewart left the OHL after three seasons with a very impressive resume of 199 points in 187 games. Upon leaving the OHL, Stewart spent just a little over a full season in the AHL where he scored a combined 58 points in 101 games spread across the 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
During the 2008-09 season, Stewart received the call to join the Colorado Avalanche and make his NHL debut. In his rookie season, Stewart skated in 53 games, scoring 11 goals and eight assists. The right wing took time to get accustomed to the speed of the NHL and used his first season to learn the finer points of the game at the top flight.
His second season was much, much more memorable. Coming off a somewhat quiet first season, Stewart made a big splash in his sophomore season by scoring 28 goals and 36 assists for a total of 64 points in 77 games. His mark of 28 goals led the Avalanche in scoring. It was during this 2009-10 season that the rest of the NHL took serious notice of the young, powerful forward consistently lighting the lamp for the Avs. As a result, the club decided to retain his services and signed him to a two-year, $5.75 million deal that would keep Stewart with the team through the 2011-12 season.
The 2010-11 campaign saw Stewart get traded to St. Louis along with Kevin Shattenkirk in exchange for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a draft pick. Prior to the deal, Stewart suffered a broken hand during a fight which caused him to miss a large chunk of the season. Still, with the Avalanche he managed to tally 30 points in 36 games before being shipped to the Blues. From there, Stewart left plenty of goals fresh in the memory of Blues fans – 15 to be exact in 26 games.
As a Blue, Stewart totaled 23 points in 26 games and managed to bury 15 of his 67 shots – an astounding shooting percentage of .224. Despite only being with the team for a brief period, Stewart became a focus on the power play and ended the year with seven goals with the man advantage – a mark good for second best on the team, one goal behind Patrik Berglund.
Looking ahead, Stewart hopes to make a big name for himself in his first full year as a member of the Blues. The team will look to him to be their scoring catalyst and barring any sort of major or nagging injury, Stewart should have no problem rising to the challenge. If healthy, there’s really no limit to what Stewart could do. We could easily witness him surpass 30 and possibly flirt with the 40-goal barrier, assuming he sees plenty of playing time.
One key point that shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact Stewart is in the final year of his contract and will be a restricted free agent heading into 2012-13. One can safely assume Stewart will want to make a big impression on his new team, especially since a new deal will be riding on his performance. We can hope and safely assume that the team’s ownership issues, which supposedly will be completed prior to the opener two months from now, will be a distant memory by the time Stewart needs a new contract. We can also assume that a new ownership means new money to spend which should keep the big forward around for years to come if things go as planned in 2011-12.