Corey Crawford not be nominated for the Calder trophy, as he put up elite-goalie statistics in his very first NHL season for a depleted Chicago Blackhawks team he nearly took to the second round after casting former Olympian Marty Turco to the sidelines. I might even have nominated him for the Vezina instead of Pekka Rinne (although Tim Thomas is pretty much a shoe-in to win it).
''Crow'', as he is often called by teammates, had a longer-than-expected road to the NHL, considering how dominant he'd been at all levels: a 17-3-1 record and 1.92 GAA in Midget AAA leading to four exemplary Junior seasons in the QMJHL for the Moncton Wildcats where, apart from the first year, he always accumulated twice as many wins as losses, a GAA in the twos and a save percentage above .915 - including an incredible 2003-04 playoff run where he went 13-6, 2.15 and .940, showing the Hawks some promise after they'd made him the 52nd overall pick in the 2003 draft.
He holds quite a few Moncton records: best GAA (2.47 in 2004-05), most wins (35, in 2003-04), and most shutouts (6, 2004-05). He was twice named to the Q's second All-Star team (2004 and 2005).
With Nikolai Khabibulin and then Cristobal Huet with the parent club, Crawford was relegated to the AHL for his apprenticeship. His first stop was with the Norfolk Admirals, as evidenced by these 3 cards from In The Game:
The one on the left is from the 2005-06 Heroes And Prospects set (card #236); the one in the middle is from the 2006-07 Heroes And Prospects set (card #72); and the one on the right is from the 2006-07 Between The Pipes set, the Future Stars sub-set (card #9).
When the Hawks changed their AHL affiliation to the Rockford Ice Hogs, Crow got to match his Hawks' jersey design with a logo reminiscent of the Iowa Chops - a superb combination, as can be attested by this 2007-08 Between The Pipes card (#8, the Future Stars sub-set):
I sent Mr. Crawford these 4 cards with a fan letter on March 29th and got them back on May 9th, all signed in black sharpie, all personalized ''À Sébastian'', in French, with his jersey number (29) added. It made my day, to say the least.