When Steve Yzerman talks, people listen.
Forget for a moment that Yzerman is general manager of the Canadian Olympic team. This is one of the greatest players in hockey history, so when he speaks of Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews in glowing terms it goes well beyond your basic compliment.
Yzerman scouted the Hawks' 5-4 win over Boston on Friday in his role for Canada and as vice president of hockey operations for the Detroit Red Wings. And while stopping short of saying Toews would make Canada's 23-man roster, Yzerman talked as if the Hawks' captain sould start making plans for Vancouver.
"He's a great competitor, he's physically strong, he's really responsible in all areas of the game - like everything about him," Yzerman said. "He's a tremendous young player so I don't see any shortcomings in his game and he's just going to get better and better every year.
"I got the opportunity to get to know him personally and as a player at a couple World Championships and he's a special young man. He's a relatively young guy and five years from now he's going to be significantly better than he is just the more he plays and the more experience he gets."
If anyone understands what Toews has had to deal with as the third youngest player ever to be named a captain in the NHL, it's Yzerman, who in 1986 was named Detroit's captain at age 21.
"I look back at where I was at this stage of my career versus him, I think physically he's much stronger than I was and I think he's a little bit more mature, really," Yzerman said. "He's handling himself well and I think he does because he's really focused."
Toews wasn't aware that Yzerman was scouting Friday's game, not that it mattered. The Hawks' captain plays the same way every night and turned in a typical Toews game against the Bruins, scoring a key goal in almost 22 minutes of ice time.
"It's just been an honor so far just to be mention and considered (for Team Canada)," Toews said. "I've had a lot of things go right for me since my two years and a bit in the league and I'm very fortunate so I'm happy with that.
"This season has been going well. I've been slowly getting better as a player and taking on more and more responsibility as a player."
Toews, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook all are under consideration to play for Canada in the Olympics, but the Hawks still have six games to play before the team is announced on Dec. 30 and Yzerman plans to watch them a few more times.
The Hawks play the Red Wings tonight at the United Center and again Wednesday in Detroit.
"We all want to play good every game," Keith said. "If (Yzerman) is there watching it's a little bonus."