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Toews Shattering Expectations

by Larry Wigge / Chicago Blackhawks
There was a time a little more than a year ago when Chicago Blackhawks coach Denis Savard wasn't sure just how good 2006 first-round NHL Entry Draft choice Jonathan Toews was.

Now? Well, there's no doubt in Savard's mind.

"From a distance you could see the skill and poise, but you never really know for sure until you see the player on the ice in front of you, you know what I mean?" Savard said the other day, remembering the few moments he spent watching Toews help Canada win the gold medal at the World Junior Championship last winter. "You like what you see. Like when Jonathan Toews was put under pressure taking shootout chances one after another.

"I think what clinched it for me was that this kid never missed the net on the shootout opportunities. We don't even see that here at the NHL level."

The Blackhawks missed the playoffs last season for the fourth straight season and eighth time in the past nine seasons. But Savard, who played a pretty good leading role in Chicago for more than a decade, had a hunch that the 19-year-old Toews and 18-year-old Patrick Kane, the team's No. 1 draft choices the last two years, were about to put the Hawks on the road to the future.

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