Toews living charmed life

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

He won a gold medal at the World Junior Championship as a 17-year-old, then amazed us all with his shootout performance, and another gold, a year later.

He followed that up with a gold medal alongside NHL players at the 2007 World Championship.

And if that wasn't enough, Winnipegger Jonathan Toews not only cracked the Chicago Blackhawks roster as a rookie this season, he's one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.

Is there anything this guy can't do?

Toews, who'll turn 20 later this month, is up against Blackhawks teammate Patrick Kane and Washington's Nicklas Backstrom for the award, which will be handed out in Toronto, in June.

"There's no denying how many good, young players there are around the league this year," Toews said during a league conference call yesterday. "It's an honour for us to be the last three. We're going to have a great time in June at the NHL banquet."

With 54 points, Toews finished third in rookie scoring -- behind Kane (72) and Backstrom (69) -- despite missing 18 games to injury. His 24 goals led the race, and he's quickly developed a reputation as a solid defensive player, finishing with a plus-11 rating on a team that missed the playoffs.

Had he played all 82 games, as Kane and Backstrom did, he might be the favourite in this race.

As it is, Toews is probably the dark horse.

"I've played with him the whole year," Kane said. "And he's a great two-way player. If he had a couple more games under his belt and not been injured, there might be a different story and we would probably know who would win this award."

Toews is thrilled to simply be a finalist, especially alongside his linemate.

The two helped put the Blackhawks back on the Chicago map, after years of decline and fan disinterest. The names Toews and Kane go hand-in-hand with any talk of the team's resurgence.

It seems they've become almost inseparable, too.

"We went through a lot of things together," Toews said. "We roomed together and did a lot of things away from the rink. Every step of the way, we've always been there. Having Patrick around is kind of like having a shoulder to lean on. We helped each other get here, too."

Next month, though, they'll be opponents at the World Championship, Toews for Team Canada, Kane for the U.S.

"Business is business," Toews said. "We'll probably run into each other more than once."

A product of the Winnipeg minor system, Shattuck St. Mary's high school in Minnesota then the University of North Dakota, Toews acknowledges he's living quite the charmed life these days.

"Even early on, I knew and believed in myself, that I would be able to play in the National Hockey League," he said.

"But sometimes when it does happen, you've got to pinch yourself. It's kind of weird at first, but it's been exciting, and after all those years, I can definitely say I have no regrets."

Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon has said he eventually sees Toews as the team captain. And as hard as he works, there are no limits on how good he can be.

"It will be exciting to see how all three of us do down the road," Toews said.

Toews could become the first Manitoban since Carman's Ed Belfour in 1991 to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and only the second since Terry Sawchuk won the award in 1951.


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