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By: Mike Peck
Photo by Rick Andoga
05/10/2012 8:33 AM - Raise your hand if you saw Andrew Shaw coming in 2011-12. Not a whole lot of hands out there.

Drafted in the fifth round (#139 overall) of last season’s National Hockey League Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, Shaw began the season anonymous on an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs.

There were 138 skaters chosen ahead of Shaw in last summer’s draft, but just four of those players appeared in more games in the NHL than the feisty winger did last season.  And all four of those prospects were picked in the first round.

Getting passed over 138 times was miniscule compared to the three prior NHL Entry Drafts that Shaw was skipped over completely.

By the time the NHL draft gets to the fifth round, picks are a crap shoot and teams are hoping to find a diamond in the rough.  How impressive is Shaw’s feat of playing in the NHL the same year that he was drafted in the fifth round?

Well consider that over the past two drafts (2010 and 2011), Shaw is one of two players outside of round two to have played in the NHL thus far. Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout is the other as he was selected in the sixth round in 2010 and played in five games with the Blue Jackets this past season.

Furthermore, going back to 2006, covering the past six draft classes, just 29 of the 180 players picked in the fifth round have appeared in an NHL game. Some notable fifth round picks in that group include Gabriel Bourque (Nashville, #132 overall in 2009), Marcus Krueger (Chicago, #149 overall in 2009) and Jamie Benn (Dallas, #129 overall in 2007).

At 5-11, 180-pounds, Shaw quickly impressed the Blackhawks brass with his pesky style of play. Through his first 33 games of his professional career, all with Rockford, Shaw had racked up 12g-9a-21pts. He really surged in December, leading all IceHogs skaters with eight goals in 14 games.

The productive December earned Shaw an NHL contract as he inked a three-year entry-level deal on Jan. 3 and the very next day he earned his first NHL recall to the Blackhawks.  It took 3:03 of hockey time into his professional debut on Jan. 5 in Philadelphia for Shaw to make a mark as the rookie winger dropped the gloves with the Flyers’ Zac Rinaldo.

Then 7:37 into the second period of his first NHL game, Shaw buried his first career NHL goal. In 12:29 of ice time, Shaw recorded a goal, a fight with four shots on goal while providing a much needed spark for the Blackhawks.

That spark turned into a mini-phenomenon in Chicago as Shaw would notch five goals and an assist in his first eight NHL games, even trending on Twitter at one point with “#Shawfacts.”

The 20-year old winger cooled down a bit and was eventually sent back to Rockford in mid-February where he spent just five more games in an IceHogs sweater before another recall placed him back in Chicago for the remainder of the campaign.

Shaw finished the regular season strong, amassing 5g-5a-10pts in his final 10 games with the Hawks, highlighted by a three point effort (2g-1a) against Washington on March 18 and an overtime game-winning goal against Vancouver on March 21.

While splitting time between Rockford (38 games) and Chicago (37 games), Shaw notched an identical 12g-11a-23pts with both clubs.

It’s still too early to evaluate the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but so far it looks like the Blackhawks have the steal of the draft with Shaw.

Over the next few weeks, will review the highlights from the 2011-12 Rockford IceHogs season with "2011-12 In Review". Check back for more features from the team’s 13th season of professional hockey in Rockford.

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