Chris Stewart: Future NHL Captain?

James CriderCorrespondent IJanuary 19, 2010

DENVER - JANUARY 16:  Chris Stewart #25 of the Colorado Avalanche beats the defense of Mike Mottau #27 of the New Jersey Devils and puts the puck past goaltender Martin Brodeur #30 of the Devils for a first period goal during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on January 16, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Earlier in the year I commented on Chris Stewart's rough start , and even suggested that the Avalanche forward may never get things together, much like his older brother Anthony couldn't in Florida.

It's time to face the music.

After being recalled from a two-game stint with Lake Erie of the AHL on Oct. 22, Stewart has done nothing but get better, and for my money, he's established himself as one of the top power forwards in the entire NHL.

Over the past 26 games, Stewart has scored 15 goals and 27 points, along with a plus-six rating and 31 penalty minutes. He ranks third on the Avalanche with 61 hits.

We can look at gaudy numbers all day long, but Stewart brings even more to the Avalanche.

He's the guy who always stands up for his teammates, no matter how big the opponent; the guy who goes to the dirty areas in front of the net to score goals; the guy the Avalanche have on the ice in the final minute of games.

Stewart is as good a future captain as anyone.

The thinking has always been that Paul Stastny would eventually take over the reigns, and while he wouldn't be a bad option, Stewart brings what Jarome Iginla or Brenden Morrow bring to their respective teams—everything.

Stewart is easily the most vocal Avalanche forward both on the bench and on the ice, one of the most physical forwards, and puts his teammates first as he showed against the Devils on Saturday when he passed to Wojtek Wolski—who was in a goal drought—during a two-on-one breakaway while the Devils had pulled Brodeur.

When it comes time to sign him this offseason, Avalanche GM Greg Sherman would be wise to lock Stewart up for the long haul.