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Confident Kane continues to grow his game

Thursday, 06.18.2009 / 9:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

It's about a six-hour flight from Ottawa to Vancouver. Evander Kane did it twice in a short span, and while it couldn't have been that much fun, the end result absolutely left a smile on his face.

Kane was the last cut from Canada's team for the 2009 World Junior Championship, and was set to rejoin his junior team, the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, when his phone rang.

Dana Tyrell had injured his knee and would miss the tournament. He was needed back in Ottawa.

"I was only home for a short period of time," Kane told NHL.com. "It caught me off-guard a little bit, but it's one of those phone calls you don't mind getting."

Especially when the end result was 2 goals and 6 points in six games played mostly in a fourth-line role, and a gold medal he never thought he'd be wearing.

"I had told the coaching staff that whatever role I was given I would do my best," said Kane. "Coming back I wanted to show them what I could do. As the tournament went on my role got more important. At the start of the American game (the last game of round-robin play), our line (with Stefan Della Rovere and Patrice Cormier) started. From then on, (coach) Pat (Quinn) had a lot of confidence in me and as a result I got more ice time."

And he used that ice time extremely well.

"He was a good prospect," said one NHL Eastern Conference personnel executive, "but bring in this experience and seeing what he can do at that level at his age really brought up his draft stock because of the way he played. He showed he can play on a checking line and still score goals, can be used on the penalty kill. He proved he can be a versatile two-way player, not just a goal scorer."

Kane did a little bit of everything for the Giants this season. He played on the top line, finished tied for second in the WHL with 48 goals and fourth with 96 points. His plus-51 rating in 61 games was fifth in the league.

He was been even better following his World Juniors experience. He had a seven-game scoring streak when he returned, and in his final 33 games, he had 26 goals and 48 points; besides the seven-game streak in January (9 goals, 18 points), he had a 10-game streak in February (8 goals, 17 points).

He also made a trip to the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game. He captained Team Cherry and turned in one of the more impressive performances during the Next Testing drills all the skaters had to go through.

"I think coming back to junior you can only leave a better player (from World Juniors)," said Kane. "It was important for me to see how other guys compete and their skill level and what it's going to take for me to get to the next level. I think it was a good experience that way and I learned a lot from it."

The scouts agree. When NHL Central Scouting released its midterm ranking for the 2009 Entry Draft not long after the World Juniors, Kane was third among North American skaters, and the top-ranked player from the WHL. His strong finish -- which included 7 goals and 15 points in 17 WHL playoff games -- kept him in that spot when the final ranking was released in April.

"From watching the World Juniors and the Top Prospects, I think he's becoming a more confident player, but he's much the same player he was from the start of the season," said Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald. "He has power forward qualities from the blue line in. He's the type of player who doesn't like being denied access to the net. That's one area he's gotten better since the start of the season. He's gotten stronger as the season has gone on. You could see in the World Junior and in the Top Prospects -- you can almost see when he's got the puck, he's going to the net and defying people to stop him."

Few have been able to stop Kane. He debuted with the Giants as a 15-year-old in 2006-07, scoring 1 goal in eight regular-season games. He went scoreless in five WHL postseason games, but had an assist in two games as the Giants won the 2007 Memorial Cup. And the same way he quickly picked up the pace en route to winning World Juniors gold, he did the same at the major-junior level. Last season, his first full WHL campaign, he had 24 goals and 41 points in 65 games. Still growing at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, the strong play has just kept coming, and should increase as he continues to grow.

"He'll be a 200-pound forward in the National Hockey League," said MacDonald. "He plays like he's 6-2, 6-3. He plays bigger than his size. I think he's surprised a lot of people with his strength going to the net."
"He's gotten stronger as the season has gone on. You could see in the World Junior and in the Top Prospects -- you can almost see when he's got the puck, he's going to the net and defying people to stop him." -- B.J. MacDonald, NHL Central Scouting
"Playing as a 15-year-old in the Memorial Cup, it was a much faster pace then when I was playing midgets that season," said Kane. "Playing in the World Junior tournament, I got used to that pace in camp. As the tournament went on the pace got faster and faster, and as the tournament went on I think I got stronger and stronger. I got to taste that pace and I'm trying to bring that back to Vancouver."

He hopes that pace takes him back to the Memorial Cup this season. The Giants won the WHL's Western Conference regular-season title, and a trip to the CHL championship tournament would be Vancouver's third trip in four seasons.

"Winning the Memorial Cup this year would certainly help my status," said Kane, "especially me being a big part of that team."

NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire concurred.

"It's a defendable fact of life," he said. "(Scouts) remember the last player they saw."

"It's always nice to win," added Kane. "Teams want winners and I enjoy winning."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.