08/01/2010 7:50 PM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
CHICAGO – Nick Leddy didn't expect to be at the sold-out Chicago Blackhawks annual fan convention this weekend.
"I actually just got called (Thursday) to come down here, so it was quite the shock," said Leddy, a 19-year-old defenseman who just signed with the Hawks after foregoing his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota. "It just came out of the blue. It's awesome to be here."
Leddy, from Eden Prairie, Minn., was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the first round (No.16) of the 2009 Entry Draft. The Hawks acquired him in a late-season trade along with Kim Johnsson in exchange for Cam Barker. Leddy participated in the Hawks' four-day developmental prospects camp in July, where he impressed both General Manager Stan Bowman and his legendary father, Scotty Bowman, now a senior adviser.
During a Q&A session with fans on Sunday, Scotty Bowman shed some light as to why the Hawks are so excited by the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Leddy -- whom he compared to a young Phil Housley. Bowman coached Housley, a native of St. Paul, Minn., in Buffalo in the 1980s, and still remembers being stunned by Housley's 31 goals and 46 assists in the 1983-84 season.
That was just Housley's second season in the NHL after he came straight out of high school in 1982-83 and put up 19 goals and 47 assists as a rookie for the Sabres. Housley finished his 23-year career playing for Chicago, retiring from the NHL with 338 career goals and 894 assists in 1,495 games.
"(Housley) came right out of high school and went to the NHL and scored 31 goals as a defenseman," Bowman told fans. "People don't really realize that. Bobby Orr never even did that. Most people with the Blackhawks don't remember Phil Housley, other than when he was here and he was a 40-year old player. I remember when he was 18. I put Leddy in the same class as Housley -- his skating, his head, his heart. It's these kinds of players who can come in and surprise."
Stan Bowman was asked about Leddy's chances to make the Hawks roster this season and classified the possibility as a "Cinderella story" if it were to happen. That means he'll likely start out at AHL Rockford , but don't expect him to play in the minors for too long.
"They say I'm pretty close, but I still have to keep working and prove myself," said Leddy, who had 3 goals and 8 assists in 30 games as a freshman for the Golden Gophers. "We'll see what happens."
Hawks-Wings rivals in Sweden, too -- Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson will soon get his day with the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Eskjo, Sweden.
That's not far from Vetlanda, the hometown of Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen -- who paraded the Cup through the streets there in 2008. Now it's Hjalmarsson's turn with hockey's biggest prize.
"Johan Franzen lives really, really close to me, so he brought it to his city and the city where I'm from is right next to it," Hjalmarsson said. "It's a little bit of a rivalry there, so I've got to go into my city and show it for them."
Still friends, only miles apart -- Troy Brouwer was close friends with former Hawks center Colin Fraser, who was traded this summer to Edmonton as part of the Hawks' payroll purge.
The two played youth hockey together in Vancouver and remained friends throughout their paths to the NHL. Still, they might not be the saddest members of their families about being apart.
"He was probably my best friend on the team and we still talk, but I think our wives are having a tougher time with it than we are," Brouwer said. "They just want to be together and be friends for the rest of their lives, but they don't understand that even though they're not in the same city, they still will be friends. They just may not get to see each other all the time."
No more coaching for Scotty -- A fan posed a question to Scotty Bowman on Sunday morning that he made sure to answer, even though it was nearly the afterthought of an answer to a two-part question.
Bowman, who turns 77 in September, was asked if he'd consider coaching Canada's World Junior team, if asked.
"Coaching at my age is only for a guy like (Penn State football coach) Joe Paterno," he quipped.