When the dust settled on Sunday night, the talk of the United Center was (once again) Blackhawks rookie Andrew Shaw.
Whether it was Jonathan Toews acknowledging his popularity with the fans or San Jose coach Todd McLellan admitting that Shaw had out-worked his best players, the buzz surrounding the kid is now extending beyond Chicago.
But how did Shaw get from the NHL Draft in Minneapolis to skating 16 minutes for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks? Let’s take a look back.
When Central Scouting produced their final rankings for the 2011 NHL Draft, 210 North American skaters were listed. Shaw was not one of them.
So when the then-19-year-old forward, who was listed at 5’10″ and 180 pounds, didn’t hear his named called in the first round, it wasn’t a shock. And when the second and third rounds came and went, there wasn’t a lot of disappointment. When the fourth round passed, nobody was passing kleenex.
In fact, when the young man heard his name called in the fifth round, after 138 other names, there was more surprise that he was being called than that he had been picked. ESPN didn’t have any information for him on their draft profile other than his junior team – Owen Sound – and position.
While at Owen Sound (OHL), Shaw had a nice season last year. In 66 games, he accumulated 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) and 135 penalty minutes. He followed that performance with an impressive 10 goals and seven assists in only 20 postseason games; he also racked up 53 penalty minutes in the playoffs.
So Shaw was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks. A couple weeks after being selected, he was one of the many prospects invited to Chicago to show the organization what he could do. The attention was on top pick Mark McNeill, the Hayes brothers, and defenseman Stephen Johns.
Once again, Shaw was an afterthought.
By the end of the prospect camp, Shaw was one of the guys everyone was talking about – including Scotty Bowman. He had played with an edge the entire camp, and had the… intestinal fortitude… to drop the gloves with the significantly larger Dylan Olsen. Clearly, the fifth round pick had made a major league impression.
But still, Shaw wasn’t on the radar. When major outlets took stock of the Hawks’ organizational depth at the beginning of this season, most were impressed with Chicago’s improvement and overall quality. Yet Shaw’s name wasn’t mentioned once.
The next step for Shaw was an intriguing move. In early August, Shaw and Rob Flick signed contracts with the Rockford IceHogs. This allowed Shaw to begin skating with some of the other top prospects in the organization while not beginning the clock on his NHL career.
And, as he had done at the prospect camp, Shaw impressed the organization during training camp with the Blackhawks and then, once the regular season started, with the IceHogs.
During training camp, he dropped the gloves with Daniel Carcillo. As he had done at the prospect camp, Shaw showed everyone that he feared no player or situation. In 33 games with Rockford, Shaw scored 12 goals and added nine assists with 80 penalty minutes. He got hot in December and carried that momentum into a professional contract with the Blackhawks.
Shaw’s contract came on the heels of Carcillo getting injured/suspended, but some (including me) questioned if a small, fifth round pick that nobody had heard of six months ago was ready to jump into the NHL’s Western Conference playoff race.
When he made his NHL debut, everyone (again, including me) that had questioned him being ready for prime time was shown to be wrong. And in his seven games with the big club, he’s continued to show the organization that he’s ready for the NHL.
Shaw is the first Hawks player since 2003 with four goals in the first seven games of his NHL career.
On Sunday night, Shaw was credited with the first game-winning goal of his NHL career, a victory that pushed the Hawks back into first place in the Western Conference as one of two teams in the NHL with 60 points (the other being the Rangers).
In seven games, Shaw has been credited with 16 hits, six blocked shots, three takeaways and is winning 54.8 percent of his faceoffs (including all six on Sunday night). What’s more impressive, Shaw is getting regular ice time on the penalty killing unit. Despite coach Joel Quenneville having a history of preferring veterans, Shaw has been given opportunities to prove himself in key situations and has produced.
As the season moves forward, the effort of Shaw will continue to put pressure on veterans like Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik to produce. When Patrick Sharp returns from injury, it’s going to be awfully hard for Quenneville to take Shaw out of the lineup. Indeed, it appears the young man is here to stay.