It's hard to find a much bigger underdog than Andrew Shaw.
After being passed over in two consecutive NHL Entry Drafts, Shaw had a breakout season with the Ontario Hockey League's Owen Sound Attack, scoring 54 points in 66 games during the regular season, and chipping in another 17 points as the Attack took the league title.
The pesky forward was rewarded for his strong season, as he was finally selected 139th overall by the Blackhawks in the 2011 draft. After playing half of a season in Rockford, Shaw was arguably the NHL's biggest rookie surprise, recording 23 points in 37 games while also racking up 50 penalty minutes.
chicagoblackhawks.com got in touch with Shaw ahead of this week's draft to discuss how he dealt with not being selected, and how he felt when his name was finally called.
If you could sum up your draft experience in just a few words, how would you describe it?
Ultimately, it was an unbelievable experience. Me, my mom and dad went down to Minnesota last year for the draft. Just hearing my name called out over the PA, going to an amazing team, is one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life.
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How did your expectations change from the first time you were in the draft at age 18 to when you were 20 and did get drafted?
I think I just matured as a hockey player and also a person. I didn’t have any pressure on me going into the 2011 draft. That whole year was just about becoming better in Owen Sound, with great coaches like Gary Virtue and Mark Reeds. They helped me a lot to improve my game. We had a great playoff run and won the Ontario Hockey League championship and I think that whole experience improved every aspect of my game.
Did you go to the combine the year you were 18?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t have an invite. I got to go down this year to meet with a bunch of people. It was pretty neat to see the kids going in there and working really hard and trying to impress all the scouts.
Going back to when you were 18 or 19, did you feel discouraged going through the draft process and ultimately not being selected, or did you use that as motivation going into the next season?
Yeah, I always wanted to prove people wrong. I felt I’ve done that the past few years. I never let that get to me. I just kept pushing myself and working a little extra harder. It worked out great for me. It made it even better when I did get drafted.
Did you go to the draft the two summers before you were selected?
No, I didn’t. I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted, and if I did it was going to be really late. I stayed at home and watched it with my family and my buddies.
What made you go to the draft in 2011?
I had a couple of interviews with some teams, and I knew that there was some interest. My agent thought it would be a good idea, a great experience for me to go. It worked out pretty well.
Did you hear from the Blackhawks before the draft?
I was supposed to have a meeting when I got down to St. Paul, but it didn't happen. As it ended up, they just knew what they were going to do so they didn’t need to talk with me. I had a feeling they were going to pick me up in the fifth or sixth round. I couldn’t have been more excited when I heard my name called. I think they knew what they were going to get with me, and I think they were impressed with my play. They just took a gamble with me.
How many teams did you meet with?
There were around six or seven teams I met with or talked with.
What’s that interview process like?
It wasn't too bad. The teams just want to see what kind of person you are. They know what you can do on the ice, they want to see if you’re a good kid, if you have that extra work ethic – that’s pretty much it.
Will you be watching the draft this year?
Yeah, I always watch the first round. I keep tabs in the later rounds to see if some hometown kids or buddies that I used to play with go anywhere.
If you had a piece of advice for someone going through the draft this year, what would that be?
Never get down on yourself, and don't let the draft affect what you do out on the ice. If you don’t get drafted, there’s always the next year and the year after that.