Toews a golden boy

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

We take you to the victorious Team Canada dressing room in Moscow the other day, where Winnipeg's Jonathan Toews suddenly felt like a bit of an outsider.

Oh, he had a gold medal around his neck again, like his teammates. But this wasn't the world juniors.

At this moment the just-turned, 19-year-old felt like what he was -- a boy among men.

"It is a lot different, in that the guys have their wives there, and some guys have kids and stuff like that," Toews was saying, soon after landing here, yesterday. "And I'm there with my parents. I'm obviously that young guy, still. It's a little different than being part of a college or junior hockey team."

This, of course, was in stark contrast to his play at the just-completed World Hockey Championship, where Toews fit right in.

COMING OF AGE

History will show that Toews celebrated not only his 19th birthday in Moscow, but also his coming of age as a player.

This was the University of North Dakota student's first experience competing with and against NHLers, and he aced this test the way he seems to ace them all.

Playing alongside people like Shane Doan and Rick Nash, Toews came out of the tournament with two goals, seven points and a reputation as a demon in the face-off circle.

Which raises the question: what's left to accomplish at college, other than the completion of a degree?

Because if there was any doubt about this two-time world junior champ's ability to compete with the best in the world -- and Toews himself had some doubts -- surely they were laid to rest in Russia.

Drafted third overall by Chicago last year, Toews remains unsigned and, officially at least, undecided.

"Obviously this thing has helped me clear some things up, as far as my ability and stuff like that," he said. "This whole thing's given me a lot of confidence, at least thinking that I can make that step, either next year or somewhere down the road. But everything's happened so fast since my season's been over.

"I'm just going to sit down with my family at the kitchen table and go over the pros and cons. I've made decisions like this before. I don't think they've been as tough as this one's going to be."

That Toews is even thinking about staying in school might say more about him than anything. This is one level-headed teenager.

A hell of a lucky one, too -- and he knows it.

This is the third time Toews has pulled on a Team Canada sweater, and his slugging percentage is perfect: three tournaments, three gold medals. He's also the first Canadian to win the junior's and the men's in the same year.

"A lot of things have to go right for you, and they have been for me," he said. "It's pretty unbelievable. The credit goes to all my teammates and coaches and everyone that's a part of it. I just kind of show up and get a gold medal every time."

No wonder he had his medal in a carry-on bag instead of around his neck. When you've won so many, you don't have to show them off.

Besides, you get the impression Toews has already set his sights on the next challenge: leaving his boyhood behind, for good.\


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