Envisioning the future

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- It's down to a matter of when and where.

In less than 36 hours, Winnipeg's Jonathan Toews will officially become a first round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

And truth be told, the 18-year-old forward isn't fussy about the where or when.

But that doesn't mean he hasn't thought about what it would be like to be the first overall selection tomorrow.

"It's crossed my mind and you think of that because obviously you believe in yourself," said Toews, who recently completed his freshman season at the University of North Dakota and helped Canada defend its gold medal at the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship. "It would be exciting if that happened but I'm not putting pressure on myself that I'd be disappointed if I didn't go first.

"I think I'm mature enough that if it (going first overall) did happen, I could handle it. First, second, 10th, whatever."

Toews has kept his eyes on the mock drafts and is anxious to find out which team will hold his rights.

One of the intriguing possibilities would be for Toews to go second overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he could eventually be teammates with Sidney Crosby.

"It would be pretty cool to go there," said Toews. "I've met (Crosby) a few times and it would be sweet to play with him."

He's already got some friendly advice from Crosby, a fellow Shattuck-St. Mary's alum.

"He told me to enjoy the weekend, don't let anything get too far in your head, have fun and take it all in," said Toews, noting that Crosby actually convinced him to attend Shattuck. "After that, it's time to go back to work. He's pretty good about not getting too hyped up. There's always talk about what he's doing but what really matters is what you do on the ice"

When Toews was young, he was a big fan of Wayne Gretzky but he eventually patterned his game after Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic.

"(Sakic) is a great player and a great leader," said Toews, who went through another series of interviews with NHL teams yesterday before attending the annual NHL awards ceremony. "He's the perfect picture of the guy you want to have on your team if you want to win a championship. I'd love to be like that as well. I try and model myself after him as much as I can."

Those who have seen Toews play during the past few seasons have plenty of good things to say about him.

"He's an exceptionally skilled kid," said Phoenix Coyotes assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. "Obviously, he's a special talent and a player many teams would covet. He'll go very high in the draft.

"He has great skill, a perfect nose for the net and he's got some jam. The kid will take the puck through traffic. He's got everything you look for in a top-line player."

"The first time I saw him play, you could just tell he had special skills," added Hockey Manitoba director of development Bernie Reichardt. "He's a leader. He's confident in his abilities and he can back it up. Guys will follow him."

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson expects Toews to wear the Maple Leaf for years to come.

"He's a special player," said Nicholson. "He's certainly up there with the elite players in our country. Just to get invited to the (world) junior team at his age is very, very special and he was a major contributor. When you look down the road here, we hope to have him in our programs and in our uniforms many, many more times."

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UNDER THE HELMET

With Winnipegger and NHL prospect Jonathan Toews:

-- Favourite movie? Old School. It's one of those movies where the lines are universally known, no matter who you're talking to. You bring something up and the analogy is perfectly understood.

-- Favourite band? Our Lady Peace

-- First job? Reffing, when I was younger. I never got (abuse) too bad. I reffed some young guys. It was not competitive at all but what some of those kids said was pretty funny. I knew most of the coaches, so it wasn't too bad. I'm glad because I wasn't too skilled at that sort of thing.

-- Favourite food? I like Chinese food, but let's go with prime rib, medium rare.

-- What are you taking in school? I don't know what my major is yet but I'll probably go into some type of business. Maybe sport marketing. We'll see how it goes.

-- Any hobbies? I play golf and play tennis. If you're a good athlete, it will help you be a better hockey player too. I was always pretty competitive in whatever I was doing.

-- How's the golf game? When I used to play a little more, I was pretty good. But I haven't been able to do it as much the last couple of summers. I used to have a membership at St. Boniface.


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