While the rookie spotlight has been shinning on John Tavares in New York and Victor Hedman in Tampa Bay, another rookie is making quite a statement in Atlanta for the Thrashers. Vancouver native Evander Kane has stepped into the Atlanta line-up as an 18-year-old and he is looking right at home in the NHL. His first point came in his first NHL game, with an assist on a goal by Richard Peverley and his first career goal came in his fifth NHL game against goaltender Chris Mason in St. Louis.
Selected fourth overall in the 2009 entry draft, the former Vancouver Giant (WHL) and member of Canada’s World Junior team has made an immediate impact in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Thrashers are not headline news and Kane’s efforts are overshadowed by the success story on Long Island and the resurgence of the Tavares led Islanders squad.
The Islanders sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, two points ahead of Kane’s Thrashers as the first quarter of the NHL season wraps up. Tavares leads all rookies in scoring with 9 goals and 19 points in 21 games and he has an even rating in the plus/minus department. Kane is not far behind with 6 goals and 11 points in his first 17 NHL games and he is a plus nine, playing on the third line with Peverley and Colby Armstrong.
One interesting note, Tavares is accumulating points on the Islanders powerplay with 4 goals and 6 assists, while Kane is already killing penalties and he has one shorthanded tally so far this season; he also has three game winning goals to start his NHL career.
Kane is playing a regular shift for Atlanta and Coach John Anderson, averaging 14 minutes of ice time per game. As Ilya Kovalchuk returns to form after missing six games with a broken bone in his right foot, Kane’s point totals should continue to increase as opposing teams give Kovalchuk their full attention. If the Thrashers can sign Kovalchuk long-term and with the emergence of Richard Peverley, Bryan Little and D-man, Zach Bogosian, this team is set to make a run at a playoff spot for several seasons.
The fact that Kane has found success in the NHL is not a surprise to fans of the Vancouver Giants. While he was in the WHL, Kane played 65 games in 2007-08 and had 41 points and during the 2008-2009 season, he helped ignite the Giant’s offence with 48 goals and 96 points in 61 games. Kane was part of the Giants Memorial Cup win in 2007 as a 15-year-old WHL rookie and he is a Gold medal winner at the Junior Championships as part of team Canada in 2009. He also won Gold with Canada’s Under 18 squad in 2008 at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
Winning seems to follow this young man and with his strong work ethic and natural abilities on the ice, he will be a star in the league for years to come. Atlanta’s Captain, Ilya Kovalchuk, described Kane’s intensity in an article from the pre-season at the Thrashers website. “He skates like the wind,” said Kovalchuk. “He just needs to play the games and get experience from the games. He's got unbelievable talent and there's a lot of fire in his eyes.”
While Atlanta is near the bottom of the league in attendance, averaging only 13,510 fans per game, the management team of General Manager Don Waddell has accumulated a fine group of young talent and they are ready to compete. Whether or not the city of Atlanta is prepared to support their NHL franchise remains uncertain but one thing is clear, Evander Kane is ready for the NHL spotlight. Have a great sports day everyone.