Anthony Stewart scored 32 goals for the junior Kingston ( Ont.) Frontenacs in 2002-03, but beyond his on-ice skills he has about as much in common with last weekend's other 29 first-round NHL draft picks as Jimmy Stewart. His English-Canadian mother, Susan, and Jamaican father, Norm, raised him and his six siblings in the rough-and-tumble area of Scarborough, Ont., a working-class suburb of Toronto. For a time, when his family couldn't even afford to live in their small apartment, they resided in a seedy motel. Instead of being shuttled to 6 a.m. youth practices in the family SUV, Anthony often boarded buses at 4:30 a.m. and sometimes had to sneak on because he couldn't afford the fare.
"Hockey is not a poor man's game," says Stewart, an 18-year-old center whom the Panthers took with the 25th pick. "When other guys hear about my background, they're shocked."
Florida is counting on the 6'11", 224-pound Stewart to develop into a force in some of the rougher areas of the ice. Intent on injecting grit into a passive team, Panthers general manager Rick Dudley sent three lower-round picks to the Lightning so that he could take Stewart. Earlier in the draft Dudley took 6'2", 201-pound center Nathan Horton, 18, with the third pick. ( Florida traded the No. 1 selection to the Penguins for that No. 3 pick plus other considerations.) "Our scouting staff described them as the top two power forwards in the draft," coach Mike Keenan says of Horton and Stewart. "Both have a chance to make our team next year."
Most scouts say Stewart needs more of a mean streak, though Horton might not agree: Stewart broke Horton's jaw when they fought during a game last October. The two players, who were friends before the incident and share the same agent, say there are no hard feelings. "I had to protect myself," says Stewart. "When I fight, I don't fight to lose. I've come pretty far from where I've been, and I'm trying to go even farther than that."