With the Chicago Blackhawks inking goaltender Cam Ward to a one-year deal on the opening day of free agency, here are three things to know about him.
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1. TOP PROSPECT
Ward's path to the NHL was paved long ago as he was a top prospect in junior before eventually reaching the big leagues.
During the 2000-01 season, he was named the AMHL's Top Goaltender, starting 25 games for the Sherwood Park Kings Midget AAA team, registering a save percentage of .916 to go along with a 2.90 goals-against average.
He next joined the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, where he became a member of the CHL Second All-Star and the WHL (East) First All-Star Teams in 2001-02. That season he also recorded the WHL's best GAA (2.27) and won the Del Wilson Trophy as the league's top goaltender.
His dominant run through junior hockey continued in 2002-03 when he posted the WHL's best save percentage (.920) and then in 2003-04 when he won multiple awards, including the WHL Player of the Year (Four Broncos Trophy) and the Del Wilson again.
Ward joined the Carolina Hurricanes system as a first-round pick, 25th overall, in 2002. After making the jump to the professional ranks in 2004-05, the netminder was named to the American Hockey League All-Rookie Team and had the AHL's best save percentage that year (.937).
2. CUP WINNER
It took him a few seasons to reach the NHL, but when he did he had near instant success. In 2006, Ward would win the Conn Smyth Trophy as the MVP of the postseason following an impressive championship run. In doing so, he became the first starting goalie to win the Stanley Cup as a rookie since Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens in 1986.
The Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in a best-of-seven series to win their first championship. Ward allowed one goal or less in three of those games. In Game 7, Ward stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced to lift his team to victory.
Ward is 31st in NHL history for games played with 668 (regular season), and 27th in all-time wins amongst goalies with 318.
Right from the beginning of his NHL career, Ward became a workhorse for the Hurricanes. Since 2006-07, Ward has started more than 50 games in a season seven times.
His career high was 74 games played in 2010-11, which was also the season he recorded a career high save percentage of .923.