For a guy who was barely a blip in the Chicago Blackhawks organization a year ago, Andrew Shaw's meteoric rise to NHL notoriety was one of the highlights of the 2011-12 season. What does the kid do to follow his own act?
Watching Shaw take the ice in Rockford last fall came with some excitement, though a call-up to the 'Hawks seemed out of the realm of possibility. Shaw had come into training camp as a 20-year-old fifth-round selection in the 2011 draft.
Scrappy but undersized, he took on Daniel Carcillo early in camp and made a name for himself with his wide open style of play. Still, IceHogs fans had reason to believe that Shaw, who was signed to an AHL contract, would be an interesting energy player to keep an eye on.
Talk about understatements.
Through the first month of the season, Shaw was fun to watch, but still not a guy you would see in the Indian Head sweater anytime soon. November saw him become a regular contributor to the offense when he moved up to Rockford's top six, and December's eight-goal explosion caused a lot of people to change their opinions.
That included an NHL entry contract from the Blackhawks. Ironically, Carcillo's injury and suspension proved to be the opening Shaw needed.
Making his 'Hawks debut January 5th, Shaw picked up where he left off in Rockford. Scoring a goal in that game in Philadelphia, Shaw went on to pot five goals in his first eight games.
Those goals came mostly as they had in Rockford. Shaw had a knack for being around the net and was lethal with a loose puck. Shaw not only won over 'Hawks but quickly became something of a twitter sensation as well.
After a brief return to Rockford at the end of February, Shaw returned to the 'Hawks and finished the season with 12 goals and 11 assists in 37 games. Oddly enough, those numbers were identical to Shaw's AHL numbers in 38 games with the IceHogs.
In Shaw's second Chicago stint, he put up eight goals and 15 points in the last 18 games of the regular season. For a guy whose offense is largely cleaning up in front of the net, his rookie production in that department was prodigious indeed.
Can we realistically expect Shaw to continue scoring at the rate of his rookie campaign? Will fans be disappointed if the kid doesn't go out and drop 25 goals on the league this season?
Of course, Shaw has been proving the experts wrong ever since the 2011 draft. He has added some weight to his 5'10" frame. He has had a full summer to hone his game.
A healthy Carcillo could hack into Shaw's potential minutes. He also won't have the advantage of flying under the radar of the officials. His collision with Mike Smith in the playoffs last spring has the league on notice. It will be interesting to see if he has to curtail his style in the face of the three-game suspension.
Despite being disciplined by the league late in his rookie season, Shaw brought mostly positives to the table in his first taste of the NHL. Hopefully we'll all get to see what he has planned for an encore.