NHL Draft Recap: Jonathan Toews
University of North Dakota forward Jonathan Toews, grabbed third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL Entry Draft, has tremendous offensive potential. The Winnipeg native will be counted on to help revive a Blackhawk squad that’s shown great promise but has floundered in recent years.
Before enrolling at UND, Toews (pronounced ‘Taves’) was a huge star at Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in Faribault, Minn., scoring 110 points in just 64 games while leading the team to the US National Midget Championship during his final season. In 2003, Toews was considered among the top 15-year-old forwards in North America when the Tri-City Americans selected him first overall in the bantam draft.
The 18-year-old left-handed shooter, standing 6’1′ and weighing in at 195 pounds, is expected to one day take his place among the Canadian elite. He’s already represented his country admirably, winning gold at the Under-17 World Championship in Alberta (where he was the tournament’s leading scorer and led a team not expected to do as well as it did) and again at the Under-18 World Junior Cup (where, acting as team captain, he again led the way, potting four goals). Earlier this year, he helped Canada win another gold on home ice when it captured the World Junior Hockey Championship in Vancouver.
Toews already understands the importance and magnitude that playing on a Canadian national team brings. And the leadership he’s shown suggests he’s on the fast track to one day captaining an NHL team.
Both TSN and ISS ranked Toews as the second-best prospect, and there’s no doubt he would have fit in well for the Penguins, but they opted for Jordan Staal with the second choice, also an excellent pick.
Toews is capable of great acceleration, is a very intelligent player and is versatile, able to handle both centre and wing. He’s a very good skater who is highly skilled and sees the ice extremely well. Toews considers himself a playmaker who can also score. The man simply has hockey sense. If there’s a downside, Toews does sometimes get down on himself, but even then, he recognizes he needs a more positive attitude to take it to the next level.
As a freshman at North Dakota last season, Toews scored 21 goals in 41 games while recording 11 minutes in penalties. He helped guide a very young club to a second straight Frozen Four appearance and was named most outstanding player at the NCAA West Regional.
He’s been compared to Ron Francis, a player who, while never considered among the absolute elite of the game, quietly enjoyed a very lengthy and productive Hall of Fame career.
Blackhawk fans and Fantasy owners will have to wait on Toews for at least another year. Chicago, concerned with salary cap issues, offered just $935,000, but Toews instead opted to return to UND for his sophomore season. We’ll have a chance to see him at the 2007 WJC, where there’s a good chance he’ll be the captain of Team Canada. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if one day in the not too distant future Toews dons the ‘C’ in the Windy City as well.