Toews goes third

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Jonathan Toews is seeing red.

And in this case, that's a good thing. A very good thing.

Toews, the 18-year-old Winnipegger from St. Vital, was the third overall selection yesterday after being chosen by the Chicago Blackhawks.

Although the franchise has been enduring a bit of a dark period in its storied history, Toews hopes to be part of the solution, whether that be this season or next.

"It's great. To be picked third overall is unbelievable and it's even more special to be part of the Chicago Blackhawks," said Toews, who was joined at the draft by his parents and his grandparents. "The guys that I met seem like solid guys who know what they're doing, it's special to be part of the future of the team."

SOPHOMORE SEASON

When that future starts is anyone's guess, though it seems likely Toews will return to North Dakota for his sophomore season.

"Whether it's next year, the year after or the year after that. Whenever the time is right, we'll see," said Toews, who had 21 goals and 38 points in 41 games with the Fighting Sioux last season and two assists in six games at the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship. "It's tough to tell. Now that I'm with Chicago, they probably have an idea where I fit in and what my timeline is."

Toews joins a stable that includes Winnipeggers Duncan Keith and Cam Barker, who was picked third overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and is expected to push for a roster spot next season.

Familiarity won't be a problem, since Toews suited up with five other Blackhawks prospects on the 2006 Canadian world junior hockey team that won gold here in Vancouver.

"I know a lot of their up-and-coming players," said Toews, who roomed with fellow Blackhawks prospect Dan Bertram. "Obviously, all those guys are great and that was part of our success at Christmas-time. If I can wear this sweater and be with those guys once again, that would be pretty sweet, for sure."

Toews was informed that Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook touted him as the guy he'd like to see Chicago take in the first round.

"That's pretty cool if he said that," said Toews. "I met him a few times and to be on a team with players like is definitely an honour and special for me."

Toews was expected to go second or third overall, but had a feeling he might be going to the Windy City after his final interview with them on Friday.

Nonetheless, the anticipation made yesterday a little emotional.

"It's very enjoyable but it definitely is a relief to know what team I'm with," said Toews. "It was a long day. It wasn't as busy as the last couple of days. It was a little longer just waiting for my name until I heard my name, but it's definitely a thrill right now.

"You work so hard all year and you try not to think to much about this moment because what really matters is what you do on the ice."

North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol has seen what Toews can do on and off the ice.

"He's a well-rounded person, that's what makes him a special type of prospect. He has that completeness in his character," said Hakstol, who was in attendance yesterday and proud to see Toews go so high in the draft. "It's a great day for him and his family and he's going to an organization that is steeped in tradition."


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