To those prospects passed over in previous drafts -- listen up!
There is hope. Just ask Chicago rookie forward Andrew Shaw
, who was passed over in the 2009 and 2010 NHL drafts before the Blackhawks finally tabbed him in the fifth round (No. 139) last June.
He's currently playing big minutes in many situations alongside David Bolland and Bryan Bickell
and has quietly become one of the most liked players in the Blackhawks locker room.
"It was a little disappointing not being drafted those first two years, but I had no pressure on me after that and went out there and had fun and stuck with my game," Shaw told NHL.com. "Chicago liked what they saw and decided to draft me. At prospect camp, I had everything to prove so I just went out there and gave it my all and they came back with an AHL contract. I didn't want to play in the Ontario Hockey League anymore and knew, if I did my best, there may be a shot."
The Blackhawks signed Shaw to a three-year contract on Jan. 3. At the time, his 12 goals and 21 points ranked third for the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. His 80 penalty minutes ranked second.
"He's been good for us in a lot of ways; we appreciate the way he competes," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville
said. "Offensively, he's got a nice set of hands and he gets rewarded for going into the high traffic areas. He finds ways to get around the puck through positioning or with his hands. He's getting some assignments against top lines and his line (with center Dave Bolland
and left wing Bryan Bickell
) has been effective."
Shaw posted a career-high 54 points, including 22 goals, in 66 games last season for the eventual Ontario Hockey League champion Owen Sound Attack. He ranked 11th in the league with 135 penalty minutes and was honored at the end of the season as the OHL's Hardest Working Player.
NHL.com recently asked Shaw to evaluate two former teammates in Owen Sound considered to be top prospects for the 2012 Draft -- forwards Gemel Smith
and Jarrod Maidens
"Gemel is a great prospect; he has a lot of skill and he's quick," Shaw said. "He plays with a lot of energy and he plays tough … he plays big and is tough. I actually looked up to him and he was always all over me about how he got more points than me last year."
"He knows the game, has great vision and is always finding the puck," Shaw said. "He has great dishes and he can find the back of the net, like he did in Game 7 [against Mississauga] last year."
Maidens led Owen Sound in rookie scoring with 21 points in 2010-11. He also recorded 6 goals and 10 points in the 2011 playoffs, helping lead the Attack to the OHL championship. He scored the overtime game-winner against Mississauga in Game 7 of the championship round.
Shaw also had some advice for those players who are draft eligible, but who might not be selected come June.
"Just have fun and keep playing the game and don't let it get you down," Shaw said. "My buddy Mike Halmo
[from Owen Sound] never got much publicity last year, but it was great to see him sign a contract with the New York Islanders
. I called him the day I found out. I think it made it easier for him knowing I was playing in the NHL because it made him realize there was a spot for players like me and him."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale