Blackhawks' Toews motivated by missing cut in NHL's Top 20 centers list
Jonathan Toews set career highs in goals (35), assists (46) and points last season (81).
He also averaged a career-high 21 minutes of ice time, won 56.3% of his faceoffs and centered the Blackhawks' top line each and every night.
Yet, when NHL Network unveiled what it believes to be the league's top 20 centers, Toews failed to make the cut.
Asked if he will use the omission as motivation, the Hawks' captain said: "Honestly, kind of. Yeah. If I saw my name at the top of the list, I wouldn't really key on it too much. But the fact that it's been a few years since our team's had playoff success, you kind of start losing a little bit of focus and attention (nationally).
"There's no doubt in the back of your mind you want to prove yourself as one of the best players in the league and on the team. So when you see that, it definitely sinks in a little bit for sure."
The list begins with some of the biggest names in the league in Edmonton's Connor McDavid, Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon, Florida's Aleksander Barkov, and Toronto's John Tavares and Auston Matthews.
But doesn't Toews belong somewhere in the top 20?
After all, the three-time Stanley Cup winner had 8 more goals that Buffalo's Jack Eichel (No. 15) and is more well-rounded than second-year player Elias Pettersson (No. 20). Toews also scored 14 more times than Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was at No. 16 and won just 38.7% of his draws.
Kris Versteeg, a veteran of 643 NHL games who has won two Stanley Cups with Toews, was smiling the entire time he talked about this snub.
"He (had) been ranked as a top-3 centerman (in the past), and now he gets 81 points and he's not ranked in the top 20. So people are looking at points," said Versteeg, who then rattled off the five key attributes to any good center: "A guy that can play penalty kill, power play, 6-on-5 situations (on) offense and defense, and go against top lines.
"Jonathan Toews can do all of that and half the centermen in that list can't. (They) can only play offensive zone. …
"It's a bit of a smack to him and I expect him to take it in stride and try to prove some people wrong."
Toews was the first player mentioned in NHL Network's "bubble players" who just missed the cut. Considering Toews averaged just 23 goals and 56 points the previous three seasons, perhaps those who put the list together thought his 2018-19 campaign was a fluke.
The 31-year-old is out to prove that's not the case.
"I know there's another level I can get to towards being that really effective top-of-the-league, two-way guy again," Toews said. "And I think if I'm playing that way and setting that example the right way, it's only going to make our team better.
"That's kind of my focus right now."
• Twitter: @johndietzdh
Center of attentionThe top 20 centers in the NHL, according to NHL Network. (Statistics are from last season).
Player, team G A Pts.
1. Connor McDavid, Oilers 41 75 116
2. Sidney Crosby, Penguins 35 65 100
3. Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche 41 56 97
4. Aleksander Barkov, Panthers 35 61 96
5. John Tavares, Maple Leafs 47 41 88
6. Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs 37 36 73
7. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins 32 47 79
8. Steven Stamkos, Lightning 45 53 98
9. Mark Scheifele, Jets 38 46 84
10. Brayden Point, Lightning 41 51 92
11. Tyler Seguin, Stars 33 47 80
12. Ryan O'Reilly, Blues 28 49 77
13. Evgeni Malkin, Penguins 21 51 72
14. Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes 30 53 83
15. Jack Eichel, Sabres 28 54 82
16. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals 21 51 72
17. Logan Couture, Sharks 27 43 70
18. Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals 22 52 74
19. Sean Monahan, Flames 34 48 82
20. Elias Petrersson, Canucks 28 38 66
Top 5 honorable mentionsJonathan Toews, Blackhawks 35 46 81
Sean Couturier, Flyers 33 43 76
Dylan Larkin, Red Wings 32 41 73
Matt Duchene, Predators 31 39 70
Mathew Barzal, Islanders 18 44 62