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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins
Of the top prospects in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, Jonathan Toews is the least-hyped.

Don’t let that fool you, though – Toews can play.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder is ranked as the No. 3 prospect by the NHL Central Scouting Service and Red Line Report, so it seems certain Toews will be off draft boards quickly.

Actually, he would be thrilled to go to the Penguins at No. 2 overall and join a core of young talent that features Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Whitney, Colby Armstrong and Noah Welch – among others.

“Definitely,” he said. “To have a chance to play with guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury – a bunch of top picks right there – it’d be exciting to play with guys like that, for sure, and be a part of the team.”

Toews, pronounced “Tayvz”, is listed as a center/winger and plays both positions equally well. While he may not receive the hype of Erik Johnson, Phil Kessel or Jordan Staal, Toews provided a solid workout at the NHL Draft Combine in Toronto.

“I worked pretty hard and I showed what I could do in the weight room,” he said. “I had a bunch of interviews and I thought they all went well. It was nice to meet some guys who are high up there in the ranks with some NHL hockey clubs. It’s been great. I met a lot of new kids there seen some of the ones I have played against.”

Toews did not mind working out in front of a room full of scouts, strength and conditioning coaches and media.

“I think it maybe helps you a little bit and gives you some motivation to have that crowd right in front of you,” he said. “You have the adrenaline pumping and you don’t really feel it until the near end.”

Nevertheless, Toews can’t wait to find out where he will play once he is selected at the NHL Entry Draft on June 24 at 6 p.m. at General Motors Place in Vancouver. The event will be televised on OLN in the United States.

“I think for any kid, when you have that opportunity to step in, why wait? It’s been my dream to play in the National Hockey League one day regardless of who it’s with,” he said. “If I am ready next year and they want me to step in and be a big part of their team, I’m all for it and I’d love to have that opportunity.”

Toews completed a successful freshman season at North Dakota. He finished fourth on the team in scoring with 39 points (22+17). His 22 goals and nine power-play tallies ranked second on the team. Toews, who was named the most outstanding player at the 2006 NCAA West Regionals, helped guide the Fighting Sioux to the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals, where they dropped a 6-5 decision to Boston College.

Toews wouldn’t mind returning to North Dakota to try to win a national championship, but would make the jump to the pro ranks, too.

“I guess it depends on who picks me and what they want to do with me,” he said. “If I am not ready, that’s great because I have a great place to play next year and will get ready to make that step eventually.

“You never know, we’ll see what happens. It’s a long summer and over the next couple months I will be getting in better shape and stronger.”

Toews attended hockey power Shattuck-St. Mary’s for two years. In 2004-05, he had 110 points (48+62) in 64 games in helping his team win the national midget championship. He led the team in scoring and played with Penguins 2005 draft choice Michael Gergen, who finished right behind Toews with 106 points (56+50) for SSM.

In December and January, Toews played for Team Canada’s gold medal-winning squad at the World Junior Championship. He had two assists in six games.

Still, Toews is aware he can continue to improve.

“There are so many things I can work on. One of the things I have been concentrating a lot on in the last couple years is my skating and stuff like that,” he said. “I think that’s something I can improve on. I think the difference is, especially for the skill guys at the top of the draft, all the little details and all the little parts of your game that really matter are the things that are going to help you step up to the next level.”

Central Scouting report on Jonathan Toews: Possesses excellent acceleration, agility, quickness and is an extremely smart player who is versatile and has played both win and center equally well this season…has very good poise and patience with the puck when on the power play or five-on-five…possesses a dangerous shot with a quick release and has the ability to make big plays and finish…is very good on face-offs…plays in all game situations and is smart and effective at anticipating the play…closes off the passing lanes and causes turnovers when forechecking and is dangerous in short-handed situations…a highly competitive team player who is unselfish and will take a hit to make a play…is a very consistent hard-working player who leads by example…keeps the play in front of him…is responsible defensively…goes hard at both ends of the ice…is not overly physical when taking his man off the puck, but is clever when using his body to protect the puck…has outstanding leadership qualities…named the most outstanding player of the 2006 NCAA West Regionals…was a member of Team West for the 2005 Under-17 world hockey challenge and a gold medal winner for Team Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championship…was also a member of Team Canada for the 2005 Under-18 Junior World Cup.

Personal Profile: Favorite player is Colorado’s Joe Sakic…wears number 9 because great players that he looks up to wear it…says his father and mother have had the most influence on his career because they have “always been there and sacrificed everything for my dream”…patterns his game after Joe Sakic because “I love how he plays”…outside of hockey, most admires Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Lance Armstrong…most memorable hockey game played was the gold medal game of the 2006 World Junior Championships in Vancouver…most memorable hockey game watched was the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic final between Canada and the USA…favorites include: Trailer Park Boys (TV show), Wedding Crashers (movie), Ben Stiller (actor) and Our Lady Peace (band)…if he had the chance to have dinner with any three people, would invite Jarome Iginla, Jessica Simpson and Pam Anderson.

(Penguins to hold Draft party at Buffalo Wild Wings)

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