TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.
-- In case you didn't know it, this just in about Evander Kane
: The Atlanta Thrashers
rookie forward is the real deal.
As expected, all eyes at Center I.C.E. Arena have been fixated on the No. 4 choice in the 2009 Entry Draft since the start of the Prospects Tournament. Kane certainly hasn't disappointed anyone -- except, maybe, himself.
"The first game was rough because it was the first game in a while and we were all just kind of breaking in," Kane told NHL.com. "I thought the second game (a 4-1 loss to the Rangers) went a lot better even though we lost. I think the more guys kind of get back into the flow of things, the better all-around game we play."
Kane has been anything but quiet through two games of the tournament. He leads his team in shots, is constantly hounding opposing goalies in search of rebounds, has recovered from a few big hits and even stood up to Rangers enforcer Justin Soryal
"We have a young team here, so there aren't many to lead the way," Dan Marr, Atlanta's director of amateur scouting and player development, told NHL.com. "But Evander is beginning to play his game -- you can just sense it. He got laid out (by Rangers defenseman Trevor Glass
) but took the hit and then made the play to get the puck deep.
"He then picked himself up, went hard to the net and scored. Not too many guys his age (18) have that presence of mind to play that pace and then dance with a tough guy right after the play. But Evander knows that he's needed on the ice and not in the box."
For Kane, it's all in a day's work.
"It's a goal of mine to make this team out of training camp," Kane said. "I definitely feel I can accomplish that goal but I also understand it's going to take a lot of hard work. I'm going to have to be at the top of my game, and this tournament is a good preparation for that."
Kane's determination to be the best on this stage in front of scouts and management doesn't surprise Marr.
"Evander's compete level is his strong point," Marr said. "He doesn't like to finish second in anything; he likes to be in the lead. If you watch our practices, he wants to be the first guy to lead in the drill and he doesn't like anybody to get the best of him. That's natural for some guys, but this is how Evander has competed throughout his whole career."
Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell also likes what he sees.
"I've been really pleased with Evander," he said. "His skill level really shows -- he jumps into the holes very quickly and goes to the net. The goals he's scored were a result of his banging away at loose pucks at the net."
Kane realizes in a tournament such as this, it's tough for players to be on the same page during the early stages.
"I think you don't know a lot of guys who are on the team and some chemistry with your linemates is definitely important," Kane said. "The sooner you could get that chemistry, the more success you're going to have. I think guys who are used to one another know how to read off each other and sometimes that takes time. For our team, it's probably taken a little longer than we'd hope but we'll straighten it out in practice."
Marr didn't expect the Thrashers to be clicking on all cylinders from the get-go, but he knew Kane would eventually find a way to take matters into his own hands.
"Evander is a guy who figures out things really quick -- his head is up, his feet are moving and that's when things happen for him," Marr said.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com