The Chicago Blackhawks will have the third-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft this weekend. Speculation over this pick seems to be never-ending and it’s no secret that it’s the most important draft pick the Blackhawks will have this year. They have a history of strong third-overall picks, including current captain Jonathan Toews, who was coincidentally also drafted in Vancouver. Whoever is picked on Friday will have a lot to live up to, as the Toews comparisons are inevitable. There is no better time to go over some of Toews’ past, present, and future highlights.
A Successful Past
Alongside teammate Patrick Kane, Toews is often cited as not only one of the best Blackhawks in recent years but one of the best amongst current NHL players. He didn’t make the 100 Greatest NHL Players list without reason. He made a splash in his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season by scoring his first goal on his first shot and became the youngest captain in the history of the franchise shortly after. He led the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years in 2010, followed by two more in 2013 and 2015. His individual achievements shine as well, including a Conn Smythe Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy, and Mark Messier Leadership Award.
Toews is also respected amongst his peers, as Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2015, “He’s a fantastic player. And he does it in both ends of the ice. Offensively, I still think he’s one of the top five players in the league, without a doubt.” (from ‘Jonathan Toews’ value goes far beyond the scoresheet ‘, Chicago Sun-Times– 6/23/15).
His success has already influenced the next generation of NHL players. Prospects speak highly of him, including Chicago native Alex Turcotte, ‘‘[Toews is] definitely an idol of mine, watching the Hawks all the way up,’’ Turcotte said. ‘‘I’d be lucky [to be] just half as good as him.’’ (from ‘Combine notebook: Prospects describe Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane as ‘idols’, Chicago Sun-Times– 6/1/19).
Toews’ career hasn’t been flawless, and nobody can predict the future. However, if his future even slightly resembles his past, the downs of his career will only be a minor footnote on his legacy.
Toews 2.0: The Present
After a career-low 2017-18 season, which ended with 20 goals and 32 assists in 74 games, a comeback season was crucial.
When he began the 2018-19 season last October, Toews was more determined than ever to prove himself. Missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade motivated him, as he told the Chicago Tribune.
“When you have time away from the game you miss it,” he said. “You get hungry. You sit there for two months watching playoff hockey on TV. That wakes you up and makes you want to get better. So I think there were a number of years where I wouldn’t say the satisfaction crept in, but there’s no doubt you’re going against a lot of great young players who come in as prepared as ever with long offseasons when you’ve been playing postseason hockey.”From ‘My Game’s Getting Better and Better,’ Chicago Tribune– 3/1/19
Toews exceeded expectations, and with 35 goals and 46 assists in 82 games, it was the best season of his career. He was relieved to show signs of improvement over a few years of slowing down, as he told NBC Sports Chicago, “It was fun to go out there and score and just have that confident feeling that you can go out there and create regardless of who you’re playing with on any given night,” Toews said. “It’s a feeling I didn’t really have the last couple years, and people start talking and doubting what you’re able to do so it’s sometimes hard to not let that creep into your own mind and into your own game. I feel like I took a good step forward in that sense this year.”
Toews credits a stronger training regimen and dietary changes for his success. Despite having the best season of his career at 30 years old, where most players start to show a decline in play, Toews still sees plenty of room for improvement and plans to be even better next season.
A Promising Future
At 31-years-old, playing as well as he did last season again is much easier said than done. However, Toews is going into the 2019-20 season with the same fervor as last season.
Earlier this month, he spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times about his future, “I’m motivated out there to be the best on the ice every night. I feel like I have that mentality. It was fun to be able to get back on the horse [last season], but I still feel like I have tons of improvement I can make. People look at numbers — it grabs attention —but there’s so much more to my position. I haven’t hit that ceiling in my game yet.” (from ‘Sports Saturday: Captain Marvelous’, Chicago Sun-Times– 6/1/19).
Toews is sticking with the changes he made regarding his training regimen and healthier diet. Only time will tell if he is able to have another strong season or improve, but if all goes as planned, he won’t be slowing down any time soon.
Whoever the Blackhawks pick third at the NHL Entry Draft this weekend will have some big shoes to fill. Lucky for Chicago’s fans, it’s easy to see what one of the best case scenarios could be. Only time will tell if the draft pick lives up to his predecessor.
All stats obtained from NHL.com.