One night after facing his former coach at the University of North Dakota, current Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, for the first time, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will butt helmets with a pair of Capitals he suited up with while playing for the Fighting Sioux a decade ago.
For two seasons (2005-07) Toews, T.J. Oshie and Taylor Chorney made up three-fifths of the most dangerous power play in college hockey as members of the University of North Dakota.
Tonight they’ll face each other when the Blackhawks visit the Capitals at Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN).
Chorney says he saw greatness in Toews even before they were college teammates.
Chorney and Toews were 16-year-old teammates at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school, a hockey factory in Faribault, Minn., where Toews racked up 110 points in 64 games.
“When I was at Shattuck I wanted to play well so I could get a scholarship and maybe get drafted,” Chorney said. “For Johnny, his whole life he genuinely wanted to be a Hall of Famer. Not in a stuffy way. That’s been his dream and he’s been going at it at 100 miles an hour.”
Some might say that with three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy and an Olympic gold medal, Toews’ ticket to the Hockey Hall has already been punched. And he’s only 27.
“His work ethic is unbelievable, second to none,” said Oshie, who played two seasons on a line with Toews at North Dakota. “I think that’s why he’s had so much success, because of how much work he puts in away from the rink and at the rink.
“And he’s obviously a great leader as well. He’s the guy that drives the bus for them from an intensity standpoint, so we need to try to shut him down early, but he’s going to keep coming.”
In their two seasons together as linemates Oshie (41 goals, 56 assists) and Toews (40 goals, 45 assists) combined for 102 points in 87 games. Ironically, it was their linemate, left wing Ryan Duncan, who put up the most points in those two seasons (47-46-93), winning the 2007 Hobey Baker Award as the best college player in the nation.
(Duncan, 30, is now playing in Austria, having never played an NHL game.)
Chorney said he remembers the North Dakota power play, which also featured Travis Zajac and Drew Stafford, as one of the best he’d ever seen. Oshie agreed.
“That power play was pretty good,” he recalled. “I remember a lot of tic-tac-toes. They gave me a lot of empty netters, which was nice. It was fun.”
Tonight will mark the 34th game Oshie will line up against Toews but his first in a Capitals uniform. Oshie has five goals and 19 assists in his previous matchups against Chicago. And with both teams coming off shutout losses, Oshie said there will be no shortage of motivation.
“For the most part they stay on their game for the full 60 minutes,” Oshie said. “We’ve got to have a good start, unlike our first couple games, and we’ve got to play a full 60. These guys don’t go away and if they get up they try to get up two and then three.”
The Hawks (2-2-0) are expected to turn to 6-foot-6 backup goaltender Scott Darling, who has a 10-4-0 record in 15 career appearances in the NHL, along with a 1.88 GAA and .938 save percentage. Caps fans will also be getting their first look at Chicago’s 6-foot-8, 238-pound rookie defenseman Viktor Svedberg.
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