Jim Hulton doesn't recognize Anthony Stewart at the 2005 world junior championship, which is somewhat scary considering Hulton coaches Stewart with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. Stewart's indifferent play at the selection camp and in exhibition games the past couple of weeks resulted yesterday in a major demotion for the Scarborough native, who was relegated to the 13th forward for Canada against Sweden.
Only a recurrence of a leg injury to Jeremy Colliton put Stewart back in the regular rotation.
"I think Stewy has to understand his success begins and ends with work ethic, and he has gotten away from that here," Hulton, an assistant coach with Canada, said after an 8-1 whipping of the Swedes here in Grand Forks, N.D.
"Usually this kid rises to whatever challenge is thrown in front of him, so this has caught us all by surprise."
Stewart, a first-round choice by the Florida Panthers in 2003 who signed with the NHL team earlier this year, was an unstoppable force at the 2004 world junior in Finland.
The 19-year-old formed the top line with Nigel Dawes and Michael Richards, and tied Dawes in scoring for Canada with 11 points. A strong start with the Frontenacs this season makes his struggles, which continued through Canada's first game against Slovakia, now more perplexing.
It's probable the 6-foot-1, 233-pound Stewart would have been glued to the bench yesterday had Colliton not been forced to leave the game, but he said he is not upset with coach Brent Sutter.
"I'm a bit disappointed, but you have to check your ego at the door, like everyone says," said Stewart, who couldn't put a finger on the reasons for his weak performances, even though he has been reunited with Dawes and Richards.
"I'm trying hard to get my groove back. Coach Sutter doesn't want me to worry about scoring, so I have to go out and start taking the body."
Hulton and the others on the coaching staff hope that begins in earnest tonight against Germany. Using patience with players can be a constructive tactic but in an event as compact as the world junior, Stewart has to get into gear now.
"We're going to be patient, but it's difficult in a short-term tournament," Hulton said.