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Top Prospects Profile: Jonathan Toews

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks completes its string of top prospect profiles (in alphabetical order) with Jonathan Toews.

Ask scouts which forward in the 2006 Entry Draft has the most "upside" and you'll invariably hear the names Phil Kessel or Jordan Staal. But ask scouts to name the "safest" pick -- the forward with the fewest weaknesses and most refined all-around game -- and the answer is always Jonathan Toews.

Goal-scoring? The University of North Dakota freshman scored 17 goals in 34 regular season games last year, three more than offensive dynamo Phil Kessel did for Minnesota in the same number of games.

Playmaking? Central Scouting says Toews "possesses excellent acceleration, agility, quickness," while the independent scouting service Red Line Report calls him a "supremely skilled and creative centre with great hands and touch around the net."

Defense? Red Line raves that the Winnipeg native has "superb hockey intelligence in all three zones and is extremely aware and responsible defensively." His plus/minus rating last year was a plus-20.

Character? As a freshman, he developed into one of the leaders on a Fighting Sioux squad loaded with talent, including 2004 1st round picks Drew Stafford and Travis Zajac. North Dakota lost to Boston College in the Frozen Four semifinals.

In addition, he boasts the experience of being the captain of Canada's gold medal winning team at the 2005 U-17 World Junior Championship, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 NCAA West Regionals, recording two goals and three assists in two games.

"When you interview him, his character is totally reinforced with how well grounded he is and how solid he is emotionally and mentally. You just know he's going to move forward rapidly," explains Blackhawks amateur scout Ron Anderson.

"The real impressive thing about him is that he turned 18 on April 29, so as a 17 year-old he wasn't playing with his peers," Anderson adds. "He was playing with 21, 22, and 23 year-olds, and he seemed to get stronger as the year went on."

In fact, Toews -- pronounced TAYVZ -- was the youngest player in U.S. college hockey last season.

Toews is also extremely versatile. He tallied a respectable seven goals and five assists for North Dakota through his first 18 games, but was moved to center after the World Juniors and put up 15 goals and 12 assists in 24 games.

Toews says he patterns his game after Colorado star Joe Sakic, and so far he's been pretty successful. In a live chat on, Anderson compared Toews to Sakic, explaining that he is "persistent [and] sincere in everything he does on the ice, from forechecking to finishing checks to taking physical contact to finishing opportunities. He also has the leadership qualities that are going to allow him to be a good player for a long time."

The 6'1", 195 pound Toews doesn't have Jordan Staal's size, but he isn't afraid to play physical. Red Line Report says Toews will "muscle defenders off the puck down low, then driver out of the corner and make plays on net."

Toews says his aggressiveness stems from a simple desire to make plays with the puck. "I want to be out there working the puck down low and generating chances at the net," he told McKeen's Hockey. " I like to control the puck and hate to give it up."

While Kessel flashes lift-you-out-of-your-seat type skill, and Staal's combination of size, skill and mobility could make him the premiere power forward in the league someday, both come with question marks. Chief among them, Kessel isn't excited about playing defense; Staal is still unpolished skill-wise.

Being the "safest" selection on draft day may not sound that enticining to a Blackhawk fan as the potential Kessel and Staal have. But the consensus is that no team will be sorry to take Toews, who Red Line calls "the most complete forward in this draft."

"You just can't go wrong with him," Anderson says. "He's a very safe pick and he's going to be a real solid player in the National Hockey League."

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