To suggest Chris Stewart is enjoying a renaissance of sorts to start the 2017-18 season would be quite the understatement. With six goals in his first seven games, the Minnesota Wild winger has turned back the clock and it could not have come at a better time. With the club decimated by injury, this group needed someone to step forward to pick up the slack and the Toronto native has done exactly that.
After putting together back-to-back 28-goal campaigns during his second and third years in the league, Stewart looked to be well on his way to becoming the game’s next great power forward. Unfortunately, the former St. Louis Blues’ winger hasn’t come near that number since and it has completely changed how organizations across the league view a player once considered to be a “can’t miss” prospect.
Stewart Has Goal Scoring Pedigree
At 6’2” and 240 plus pounds, it is next to impossible to not notice Stewart on the ice. Despite his massive frame, the 29-year old is a decent skater for his size, has touch around the net and owns an absolute bomb of a shot, when given the opportunity to unload it. However, his inconsistent play has plagued him throughout his career and left many a hockey fan to wonder what might have been.
Chris Stewart is tied for fourth in the NHL with six goals.
Three have given the #mnwild the lead, 1 tied a game, 1 pulled Wild within one
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 22, 2017
Hence the surprise to see the big man get off to the kind of start he has. With that said, there is a reason why so many felt Stewart would likely develop into a perennial 30-goal scorer. His skill-set remains one that few players in today’s game possess and if, for no other reason, that can help explain his torrid start. Granted, the chances of maintaining a 42.9 shooting percentage over the course of a season are zero but that isn’t the expectation.
Expectations Were Minimal for Stewart in 2017-18
Remember, we are talking about a guy who was essentially used in a fourth line role by the Wild last season and was pegged for similar duty in 2017-18. Another thing to keep in mind, this run may be a complete shocker to most but when it comes to Stewart himself, it is anything but. Again, there is a reason why the Colorado Avalanche used the 18th overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft to grab him.
Make no mistake, it is still early but with Minnesota’s roster being ravaged by injury to the extent it has to start the year, Stewart’s been a godsend for Bruce Boudreau and company. With five of his six goals coming at even strength and the player showing a willingness to go to the net, both with and without the puck, it hasn’t taken long for him to become a mainstay in the head coach’s rotation up front.
As an added bonus, Stewart has also managed to stay out of the penalty box, something which he has been unable to do throughout his career. In other words, everything that could go right has gone right for the veteran winger over the first few weeks of the season. Now it’s just a matter of trying to maintain it over the course of a full 82-game campaign and staying in his coach’s good books.
If he does that, there is no reason why Chris Stewart cannot finish the year in and around the 20-goal mark. Let’s not forget, we are talking about a player who was supposed to be a non-factor for the Minnesota Wild and nothing more than a spare part. Well, that so-called spare part has already managed to make an impact and now we’ll see where he can take it with his confidence sky-high.
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Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.