- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2012

OTTAWA — Claude Giroux is tired of the story at this point. At the 2006 NHL draft, then-Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bobby Clarke forgot the name of the player he was taking 22nd overall.

Bobby Sanguinetti, the New Jersey defenseman the Flyers coveted, went off the board a pick earlier. He’s finally starting to show some promise in the American Hockey League, while another All-Star season from Giroux has validated his place among the best players in the world.

“He’s a guy that he’s everything you need: He’s highly skilled, he’s the hardest-working guy. He’s a leader in what he does,” Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley said. “All those things, it’s hard to find that. With the confidence he’s getting every day here, I think there’s no question he should be mentioned with that group.”

At this point, that group in the discussion for best in the NHL probably includes Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (when healthy), Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin. But Giroux is right there with them.

He has 18 goals and 37 assists, a point total good for second in the league at the break and success he credited linemates Scott Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr for.

“I think I’m pretty lucky to have some veterans to show me the way,” Giroux said. “And obviously last year went pretty well, and I had a pretty good season. Right now, being able to play with Hartnell and Jags, obviously it’s helping a lot, and hopefully we can keep that chemistry going.”

Giroux showed last year that he had the ability to take over a game. Philadelphia’s power-play success and Jagr’s career resurgence are predicated on the 24-year-old’s passing fancy.

Playing first-line minutes and getting a leadership role with the summer trades of Mike Richards to Los Angeles and Jeff Carter to Columbus helped Giroux immensely.

“I think he’s always had it in him,” Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk said. “Now you see him at the forefront: He’s on the first line, first power play, first penalty kill — over the boards first for every situation.

“He’s really taken that opportunity and kind of ran with it. I think he’s always had it in him, but he’s been able to kind of take advantage of the opportunities he’s been given.”

Giroux very well might be leading the league in points had he not missed four games with a concussion in mid-December. Still, he’s in the discussion for the Hart Trophy and could legitimately be talked about as being as valuable to his team as Toews, Malkin and other guys already established as big-time stars.

But the Hearst, Ontario, native who will be playing in his second All-Star Game on Sunday, isn’t letting success and fame go to his head.

“I have to make sure I stay focused on what I do on the ice,” he said. “Little details that people say off the ice, you can’t really get into that. Even if it’s good things or bad things, you’ve got to make sure you keep your head on straight and you do a good job of what you’ve got to do out there.”

And Giroux doing a good job on the ice is crucial for the Flyers.

“He’s our engine. He’s our motor,” All-Star defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “When he goes, our team goes and we usually win games when he plays well.”

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