Shaw's start has more than just Hawks taking notice
CHICAGO -- How far has rookie Andrew Shaw come since last June, when the Chicago Blackhawks selected him in the fifth round (No. 139) of the 2011 NHL Draft?
Well, just eight games into his NHL career Shaw has 5 goals -- the last four in four straight games -- and his name is currently trending worldwide on Twitter under the hashtag "#Shawfacts," a spinoff of the comedic Chuck Norris-as-superhero movement already a few years in the running.
Go ahead and check it out for yourself. Andrew Shaw guarantees that you won't be sorry.
He's also been known to find a needle in a haystack blindfolded, speak fluent French … in German, get a thumbs-up from his reflection in the mirror every morning and have a "to do" list that says "Done."
Opposing coaches and goalies, however, are starting to wish that last one were true.
People across the League are just now starting to know about Shaw, because he is only getting started in his NHL career -- and because he was taken so late in his third draft-eligible year playing in the Ontario Hockey League.
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While it's still way too early to project what kind of player he will be, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Shaw has made quite an introduction to the NHL so far. He's also making quite the splash in Chicago -- or, as some are now calling it, "Shaw-cago."
After Shaw scored his fifth goal on Wednesday at the United Center -- adding an assist and having a potential second helper wiped out by a hand pass on an acrobatic effort off the rush -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville smiled when asked if he'd had many rookies whose goal-scoring ability came this quickly.
"I was fortunate to coach (Peter Forsberg) his rookie year … he was pretty good," Quenneville said, laughing. "I don't know … other than him? I have to think here. (Barret Jackman) won Rookie of the Year. He was a defenseman, not a scorer. But I've been around some good kids. [Shaw] has had an amazing start halfway through the year."
There's no mistaking that now.
Shaw scored his first goal on the first shot he ever took in the NHL on Jan. 5 in his debut against the Philadelphia Flyers, using some slick stickhandling coming out from behind the net before backhanding a laser past Ilya Bryzgalov.
He hasn't stopped buzzing the net ever since, teaming up with fellow rookie Jimmy Hayes, a 6-foot-6, 221-pound tower of netfront presence. The duo has really made an impact for a team that lost one of its star forwards, Patrick Sharp, to an upper-body injury that could sideline him for a couple more weeks.
On the ice, Shaw and Hayes are creating quite a storm. Hayes has played 10 games and put up 4 goals and 3 assists, while Shaw's got those 5 goals and 1 assist. Off the ice, they're each trying not to step on any toes inside the Hawks' locker room despite a lot of media attention recently.
Meanwhile, the more-established Hawks are probably wondering the same thing as the rest of the League and hockey fans everywhere: "Who are these guys?"
Shaw's the obvious underdog after being selected in a late round, but Hayes plays with a chip on his shoulder, too. He was taken in the second round of the 2008 Draft (No. 60) by the Toronto Maple Leafs, but was dealt to Chicago in an unheralded trade during the 2010 Draft that saw the Hawks take his younger brother, Kevin Hayes, in the first round (No. 24).
"Sometimes (getting traded) can mess with young players, but not with those guys … they're awesome," said Hawks star forward Patrick Kane, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 Draft. "They come in here and they're like little brothers to me. I love being around them."
Shaw even reminds Kane a little bit of himself when he first broke into the NHL.
"He just looks like he's kind of, like, clueless to what's going on," Kane said. "Maybe that's how I was at 18, but he doesn't know how good he's doing. He just comes to the rink with the same attitude every day and same work ethic."
He also uses that high energy level to his advantage.
Almost every time Shaw is on the ice and the puck goes into the offensive zone, he's either hounding it or buzzing around the net. The fact that he's shorter and outweighed by most defenders doesn't seem to bother him in the least.
"I'm a smaller guy and everyone said hockey is made for bigger guys," Shaw said. "You know, growing up I always proved people wrong. I started off in minor hockey on one of the low lines, and by my last year I ended up being the captain just by improving my game every year."
He's also not afraid to drop the mitts if the situation calls for it and has an overlooked skillset that has already impressed older, more experienced players.
Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith actually took notice of Shaw shortly after last summer's draft. The team put out career bios for each of its picks, complete with stats from junior hockey or college, and Shaw's jumped off the page at Keith.
"It's funny," Keith said, following Shaw's 2-point game against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday, which was televised on NBC's new all-sports network. "We were looking at the guys we drafted this summer, and as soon as we looked at them, I looked at the write-ups on each guy. He was kind of the guy I was interested in most, Shaw … because of his small stature and he had some penalty minutes."
So, Keith did what everybody does these days when they want to check out an understated player.
"I YouTube'd him quite a bit," Keith said, smiling. "And I was pretty pumped up that we drafted him. He's turned out to be a pretty good player. He's got a really good hockey sense and he's shown it. He makes smart plays … plays center, wing, and he's been good around the net getting rewarded for it."
It was originally thought Shaw might give the Hawks a little bit of what they lost when gritty veteran forward Daniel Carcillo went down with a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 2 against Edmonton.
Instead, he's been more of an offensive presence than Carcillo and still able to pester opposing players on the defensive side. Hawks two-way center Dave Bolland -- who earned his nickname of "The Rat," by hounding opposing stars -- even wondered recently if Shaw was trying to be "The Little Rat."
Truth is, Shaw's been like this for a while now -- always improving at each stop along the way.
Last season with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL, he finished with 54 points (22 goals and 32 assists) and a plus-17 rating in 66 regular-season games. He also finished 11th in the OHL in penalty minutes (135) and ranked third on the team with 10 postseason goals in a run to the OHL championship.
What Shaw did in the 2011 Memorial Cup, however, might be what really got the Hawks' attention. After earning the OHL's "Hardest Working Player of the Year" designation, he led all players at the Memorial Cup with 7 points (2 goals and 5 assists).
He then notched 12 goals and dished out 9 assists with 80 penalty minutes in 33 games with Rockford of the American Hockey League before signing an entry-level contract on Jan. 3 and joining the Hawks for that memorable debut in Philly a couple of weeks ago.
It's been a bit of a dream ever since, which makes you wonder when -- or if -- it will suddenly come crashing to a halt. Will Shaw and Hayes hit the seemingly inevitable rookie wall at some point?
"It's always in the back of your head, but the goals and assists are just bonuses," Shaw said. "We're just playing good structured hockey and they like that."
So does, Twitter evidently. For now, Shaw is still trending -- worldwide -- and apparently living vicariously through himself.