As a teenager watching the dynastic New York Islanders with a keen eye on his future, Steve Yzerman idolized Hall of Fame center Bryan Trottier because of how he played the game and the attitude he brought to the arena every night.
As an executive in Detroit watching the Chicago Blackhawks with the same keen eye, Yzerman, now a Hall of Famer himself, thinks of his idol when he sees Jonathan Toews
on the ice.
The comparisons are easily noticeable, and not just because Toews wears No. 19, too.
"I strived to become the Trottier-type of player in both ends of the rink and Jon is good at that now," Yzerman told NHL.com. "He's a bigger, stronger guy than I was at the age of 20 or 21. That's the difference, and why I think he's a very similar player to Trottier."
Yzerman has another Hall of Famer in his corner on this one.
"(Toews) might not be quite as physical as Trottier, but he's the modern-day Bryan Trottier," Wayne Gretzky recently said on NHL Live! "He plays with his head, is strong on faceoffs, good defensively and he scores big goals. He's an unselfish leader."Patrick Kane
may be the flashiest player on the Blackhawks and goalies Antti Niemi and Cristobal Huet the most scrutinized heading into the playoffs, but Chicago's Stanley Cup hopes always will be linked to Toews, the team's 21-year-old captain, who is more about preparation, grit and hustle than he is about goals, assists and accolades.
"Nothing is ever going to be easy … and the second you think you have things figured out you have to try to push yourself to become better," Toews told NHL.com. "That's one of the qualities that makes you a leader and in the end makes your team better. That's something I try to do, push myself and never be satisfied with where I'm at."
Toews realizes that comparisons, especially ones that link you to Hall of Famers that wore your same No. 19, can be fleeting if you don't deliver on the promise.
Trottier was an influential leader on the Islanders teams that won four straight Stanley Cups. Yzerman was the captain that led the Red Wings to back-to-back Cups in 1997-98 and another in 2002.
Nobody expects the Blackhawks to win two in a row, let alone four in a row, but Chicago is anticipating a long run this postseason, plus many more years of contending with Toews wearing the "C."
The only way to complete the triangle with Trottier and Yzerman is to win.
"That's a great compliment to be compared to Trots, but Jonny is young," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's got a lot to learn and a long way to go to fulfill that comparison because I thought Trots was as good as anyone in the game when he was playing."
He was because his compete level was as high -- or higher -- than everyone else's. People say the same things about Toews, and more now than ever before considering his marvelous showing on the world stage in Vancouver a month and a half ago.
Toews was considered the 12th or 13th forward for Team Canada going into the Olympics, but emerged as the best forward in the entire competition as voted by the media. He finished with 8 points, a plus-9 rating and a gold medal draped around his neck.
Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said Toews did nothing different in the Olympics than he does on a nightly basis for the Blackhawks. His success simply was magnified because it was the Olympics, but he is the most complete player in Chicago and one of the best two-way players in the League.
This season, Toews had 68 points and a plus-22 rating. He's one of the top faceoff men in the game (57.3 percent), led all Blackhawks forwards in time on ice (20:00 per game) and is a better than 50-50 bet to score in the shootout (8-for-14 this season).
"I think he's just an elite, elite competitor," Babcock said. "He's one of these kids that does everything right. He lives for hockey. He knows how to play the game. You can play him in all situations. He's a man-child a little bit with the big, heavy butt and he's strong. That's what you want in a hockey player."
Toews turns a bashful cheek to the comparisons and admiration. He grew up idolizing Yzerman and Joe Sakic, another No. 19, because they did the same thing.
"They were great leaders and had great careers, but they never acted or pretended like they were superstars," Toews told NHL.com. "That's the attitude I try to have -- keep it simple and not pretend that it's anything more than a game, because to me that's all it is. Just give your best effort every time you're on the ice."
Quenneville said Toews never, ever shows an ego. It's a quality that will take him far, just like it did Trottier, Yzerman and Sakic.
"Jonny is quietly confident, very unassuming and very respectful," Quenneville said. "The greatest strength Jonny has shown since he's been here is everyday he's gotten better and he did the exact same thing in the Olympics. He elevated his game immensely and it's certainly going to be beneficial going through that Olympic experience, winning and being a key component. He knows what it takes and can apply that message here."Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Staff Writer