At the end of his sophomore season at the University of North Dakota, Jonathan Toews had a good feeling he was ready to make the jump to the NHL. After helping Canada to a third-straight gold medal at the World Championships, the 19 year-old center was sure.
"I felt like I adjusted pretty quickly at the World Championships and I think all the experiences I had there confirmed the fact that I felt ready on and off the ice," Toews said Thursday in a conference call with Chicago media.
"The fact that they chose me to go up and represent my country at that level was a huge honor and was definitely surprising for me," Toews added. "I was just happy I was able to contribute and be a part of that championship team."
On the ice, the only non-NHL player on the roster -- and the second-youngest behind fellow 2006 draftee Jordan Staal -- scored 2 goals and had 5 assists in 9 tournament games, earning the respect of teammate and future division rival Rick Nash.
"He's unbelievable how he's taken in the pressure," Nash said after Toews setup three power play goals in a 5-4 win over Slovakia. "He's pretty much the quarterback on the power play. His vision and his puck skills are pretty unbelievable."
Off the ice, Nash and other NHL vets helped ease any lingering doubts by assuring Toews he was ready to play in the league.
"I was with a couple guys from St. Louis and Columbus who said that they were looking forward to playing against me next year," Toews explained. "It was obviously a compliment to hear things like that from guys who have been in the league for a while and know what they're talking about."
Toews, the 3rd overall pick in 2006, is often praised for being a "complete player" -- skilled offensively, but smart and strong defensively as well. Like any young hockey player, however, Toews enjoys scoring goals and envisions himself as a player who can put up points for the Hawks.
"I think everyone sees me as a comple player because I think plus/minus is a big thing and being reliable in your defensive zone [is important], but most of all I like to take shots offensively and think I can be most useful doing that."
While the Blackhawks certainly need an infusion of offense, Toews also realizes that he has the potential to become the face of a franchise that has largely been without a real "star" since the days of Jeremy Roenick.
Toews, who speaks fluent French, said he won't shy away from the attention, but hopes his performance on the ice will do most of the talking for him.
"Maybe I'm not as colorful a guy like [Roenick]. It would be pretty tough to fill his shoes that way and be an entertainer. I just hope I can express myself the way that I play and entertain that way. I'm not a comedian or a jokester by any means, but hopefully I can just be myself."
Just being himself has resulted in three gold medals in international play for Canada the past two years and two straight Frozen Four appearances for North Dakota. And being a winner in Chicago would be no joke to Blackhawk fans.