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Kane hoping to stay put, expecting to star in Atlanta

by Dan Rosen
Evander Kane isn't at all surprised that he's in the NHL at just 18 years old and, according to the precocious Atlanta Thrashers rookie left wing, you shouldn't be either.

"It's been my goal since I was a kid, and when I set goals I usually feel I can reach them," Kane told "I was able to reach this goal and now I want to continue to improve and get better so I can be a dominant force in the NHL."

He may be a year, two or more away from reaching that goal, but Kane has showed early in his NHL career that he has the tools to reach stardom. It's why the Thrashers used the fourth pick in the 2009 Entry Draft on the Vancouver native and why he's already playing close to 14 minutes a game in the League.

Through eight games Kane has five points on three goals and a pair of assists to go along with a plus-3 rating, 16 shots and 10 penalty minutes. He's been a mainstay on the Thrashers' productive third line, skating opposite Rich Peverley and Colby Armstrong.

Even though the Thrashers can technically decide to send Kane back to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL after Thursday's game against Washington to save a year on his entry level contract, it would take a dramatic change of opinion for that to happen now.

"There's nothing that indicates we want to send him back," Atlanta coach John Anderson said. "He's been a pleasure to coach, and he's been doing everything we've asked, especially defensively. We're excited about having him. I don't see that he's going to get sent back."

Kane is confident, too. He hasn't heard anything from Anderson or GM Don Waddell about his immediate future, but until he plays in that 10th game, which should be Saturday against Ottawa, he's not budging.

Kane has been living in a hotel since arriving in Atlanta for training camp.

"It's been about a month and a half now (in a hotel) and it's almost past the point where it's getting old because it's what I'm used to," Kane said. "Hopefully I can stay and eventually get my own place."

Ironically, Kane, who scored 48 goals and 96 points last season to pace the Giants, hasn't earned his NHL stripes by way of his offense. As Anderson pointed out earlier, Kane's defense has been strong and more than anything, that's why he's likely to stick in Atlanta this season.

"Coming into junior as a 15-year-old, it was really driven in to me that it was all about defense first and then goals would come," Kane said. "That part I attribute a lot to (Giants head coach) Don Hay and the Vancouver Giants. I feel that now I'm not a defensive liability even though I like to play offense most of the time. You have to be that kind of player if you want to be a factor in the NHL."

Anderson has gained enough trust in Kane's defense to put the teenager on a regular penalty kill rotation. He has played all of 30 seconds on the power play, but is averaging a minute and a half per game on the PK.

"He leads with his stick and finishes his checks all over the ice," Anderson said. "I know he scored 48 goals last year and has been a real help offensively this year also, but it's going to take him a little time to figure everything out. We're trying to get him to be an all-around player."

Even though scouts praised his tenacity and grit, calling him a future 200-pound power forward in the NHL, right now Kane, who checks in at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, believes his skating is his biggest asset.

"There's nothing that indicates we want to send him back. He's been a pleasure to coach, and he's been doing everything we've asked, especially defensively. We're excited about having him. I don't see that he's going to get sent back." -- John Anderson

He can fly, which is why Anderson has him playing with a fellow burner like Peverley. Armstrong isn't as fleet of foot, but he provides some pop and jam to that line, making it one of Atlanta's best.

"I feel I'm able to beat guys to pucks and to pull away from defensemen," Kane said confidently. "I feel that my strength really hasn't been an issue at all either, and my shot is up there as well also. I have tried to use it in the first couple of games."

Kane also seems to be transitioning well off the ice even though he still has hotel housekeepers tidying up for him everyday. He said he's been to Armstrong's house on a couple of occasions and Eric Boulton has served as a mentor, giving him "little tidbits of advice," especially about life on the road.

Ondrej Pavelec and Anssi Salmela are living in the same hotel, so he's not alone even though his parents may seem a world away in Vancouver.

"I don't know a lot of people here so it's a little different and you're sometimes on your own, but you always have the guys to go back to," Kane said. "I think my mom (Sheri), if I get the word I'm staying, she'll be coming out to help me find a place."

Word should come soon, either from Waddell or just by his name appearing on Anderson's lineup card for Saturday's game in Ottawa.

When it does, you shouldn't be surprised. Kane certainly isn't.

"I am just taking it as if I am on the team and I'm staying here for the whole season," Kane said. "That's my mindset and that was my goal, so that's the way I'm going about my business. I am in the NHL and that's it."

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