Andrew Shaw an improbable hero for Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) celebrates scoring in triple-overtime to win Game 1 of...

Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) celebrates scoring in triple-overtime to win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final in Chicago, IL., June 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:27 PM ET

The kid who became the overtime hero was once on the fast track to nowhere.

He was too small, too aggressive, too willing to fight anyone, believed to be not skilled enough. That was the book on Andrew Shaw when he was passed over, not once but twice, for the NHL draft.

"You looked at him, he was playing what, seven, eight minutes a night, third or fourth line, and he was fighting everybody, and he was maybe 5-foot-10, and you're thinking he can't compete at the next level," said Mark Seidel, chief scout of North American Central Scouting. "You can't play that way against men.

"Even in minor midget, he competed like nobody did. He went to all the dirty areas on the ice. He outworked everyone. But what do we all fall in love with, skill? In this case, I think we all underestimated his skill."

Mark Reeds never did when he was coaching the Owen Sound Attack. There would probably be no Andrew Shaw in the Stanley Cup final, deflecting a puck in triple overtime, had it not been for Reeds and Attack general manager Dale DeGray.

DeGray acquired Shaw from the Niagara IceDogs in his final year of junior hockey and Reeds sat down the winger and had a heart-to-heart conversation.

"I wanted to hear what he thought of his career and where it was going, and I wanted to tell him what I thought," said Reeds, now an assistant to Paul MacLean with the Ottawa Senators.

"I told him, I don't need you to fight, I need you to play. I said, 'I don't want you in the penalty box, you're more valuable to us on the ice.' He'd already proven himself around the league for his willingness to go. I said, 'I want to see what kind of player you can be.'"

Said Seidel: "That year in Owen Sound and that surprising Memorial Cup run, Andrew was the heart and soul guy of that team. That was a team that never should have won anything. He willed them to victory."

The Memorial Cup tournament in 2011.

Maybe the Stanley Cup in 2013.

It is a remarkable fast track for a player who could have easily fallen between the cracks. There must be more than a few Andrew Shaws across Canada, wondering if the wrong place, wrong time, wrong opportunity somehow failed them. They never got their draft year, their chance; they never were allowed to separate themselves from the pack.

In Shaw's only season in Owen Sound, playing for Reeds, he scored more goals than in his first two OHL seasons, added 10 goals in 20 playoff games and ended up as a Memorial Cup all-star. That came a year after he represented Canada internationally in ball hockey. All that didn't exactly push him to the forefront but it did get him drafted by the Blackhawks in Round 5, the 139th player selected overall.

And as of today, only two players from that draft, the first two players picked, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog, have scored more NHL goals than the scrappy kid from Belleville who has what Reeds calls "a tough dad and an even tougher mom.

"When I saw him score that (OT) goal, I got so excited for him. A lot of guys touted ahead of him, who got better opportunities, haven't made it, and maybe won't make it. I'm so happy for Andrew. No one expected a lot from him and I think he thirves on proving people wrong."

The future star, Nugent-Hopkins, has scored 22 NHL goals. Shaw has managed 21 -- 26 if you count his playoff scores.

The triple-overtime winner was his fifth of this year's post-season, the same number as Milan Lucic, more than the new multi-multi-millionaire Evgeni Malkin, four more than his captain, Jonathan Toews, who once said of Shaw after watching him run around in one of his early games as a Blackhawks: "Who is this guy and what is he doing?"

He's doing what almost no one from his draft class has done.

There are only two players taking regular shifts who were selected after the first round in 2011. Only two. The other is his Chicago teammate, Brandon Saad. Shaw is the only player from Round 5.

The Leafs, for example, had two first round picks in 2011, Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy. Both are considered years away from being significant.

But there is some Leaf in Andrew Shaw. He grew up a Wendel Clark fan. He wanted to be Wendel. He loved Clark's take-no-prisoners attitude, his willingness to fight anybody, no matter what size the opponent was. On YouTube, Shaw can be found in junior at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds throwing punches with Brandon Mashinter, five inches taller, 60 pounds heavier. The announcer called him "Rocky Balboa. He'll score, he'll fight, he'll do whatever he has to do."

He'll even drop the occasional unintentional F-bomb on national television, as he did in his post-game interview on NBC.

The overtime goal in the Stanley Cup Final. We've all scored one in a driveway sometime.

"Something you dream of as a kid," Shaw said early Thursday morning.

We dreamed it. He did it, even if it took a double deflection to get it done. The puck went off Dave Bolland, and then off Shaw's leg. And then celebration.

It was an improbable, nearly impossible goal. A one in a million shot.

Just like the guy who scored it.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

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