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Toews' Target: One More Year

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

You announced last week that you were returning to the University of North Dakota for your sophomore season. How tough was that decision?

It was pretty tough. Obviously I want to make the jump as soon as I can. I think things went well at the Prospects Camp and I think I'd be even more prepared for the season when the fall camp comes around. But it's just one of those situations where I feel I need another year to get ready to prove myself at that level.

You got a lot of questions at the Draft about possibly playing junior hockey this season if you didn't go pro, but it was clear to me from your answers that returning to North Dakota was always your first option. What do you like most about the program?

It's everything. If I wasn't going to play in the NHL, I wanted to be back where I was last year. The way I played as the season went on, my teammates ... just the whole atmosphere on and off the ice and the comfort level I had last year was great. It's easy to focus and concentrate on hockey when everything else is set in place like that. Like I said, I think this year will be perfect to prepare for the following year at the next level.

I thought the press coverage of your decision was interesting. TSN's headline said, "Toews spurns Blackhawks," and the story taken from the Associated Press reported you had turned down a $935,000 offer. GM Dale Tallon has told me they definitely considered signing you for this season, but that they were always comfortable with you returning to college for one more year and that a contract was never actually offered. So I was surprised by the reports. Were you?

Yes. The decision had been made about a week before the media actually started talking about it. My advisor told me it was better to talk to Dale Tallon and the Blackhawks before telling anybody else. But I guess word must have squeaked out. How everyone got their different numbers and versions, I'm not too sure.

To clarify then, there's no question the Blackhawks strongly considered signing you. But they never did offer you a contract.

That's right.

You lost five players to the pro ranks this off-season at North Dakota. You'll be counted on to be a leader this year, which is probably something you're looking forward to.

I think it's going to be a huge year for me. It's something I can use in my future with Chicago. One more year developing that side of game, my leadership skills, definitely won't hurt me.

The 2007 World Junior Championship will be held in Sweden this December. You were recently at Canada's National Junior Development Camp in Calgary. How did it go?

It went pretty good. It was a good week with a lot of good players. I felt I played well. Obviously you can't be 110% like you would be halfway through the season, but it's a summer camp where guys are going to come out and give their all. There were some pretty good games with a fast pace. It was tough to score, but I think I made some good plays and played pretty well up there.

You won a gold medal with Team Canada last year. Not surprisingly, there's talk that you may be chosen to captain this year's squad.

I guess we'll figure that out. If not, it won't be the end of the world. I think my experience will help me, but I'll just take it as it comes. In the end if it doesn't happen, I won't be too disappointed. I'll just be glad to be part of that team.

Fellow Hawk prospects Dan Bertram and Ben Shutron were also at the camp. How do you think they performed?

Danny was looking good out there, leading the way. He's a great little player and was working hard, setting the pace for the new guys. Ben has tremendous skill for a blueliner. He was making great players and wasn't afraid to hold on to the puck. He seemed to have a lot of confidence out there. Both of those guys did really well.

What's the rest of your summer like? How soon before you have to be on campus?

We start school on the 21st. So it won't be long... only about a week left.

Good luck this year. I'm sure we'll be talking to you throughout the season.

Sounds good. Thanks.

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