Evander’s wholly at the top of his field
East Vancouver product has taken the hard road to the NHL draft — and will feature in the top five picks
In all his years coaching junior, Don Hay has used a 15-year-old in the playoffs only once and it wasn’t Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, Darcy Tucker or Gilbert Brule.
It was Evander Kane, which should tell you something.
“He was the only guy,” Hay says. “You have to be a pretty special player to go into a Memorial Cup when you’re only 15.”
Kane’s competitiveness helped Hay’s Vancouver Giants win the Memorial Cup at home in 2007. And it helped Pat Quinn’s Team Canada win the world junior tournament at the start of 2009, when Kane was 17. It helped the left winger score 48 goals in 61 games with the Giants this winter.
And Friday night in Montreal, it will help Kane become the first Vancouver born-and-raised kid since Barry Beck in 1977 to be a top-five pick in the National Hockey League entry draft.
“He plays with a lot of courage and he’s very competitive, and that’s a great combination to have when you want to be a player that makes a difference,” Hay says. “That competitiveness is his trademark.”
And if you don’t believe the best coach in the Western Hockey League, visit any website with thumbnail biographies of drafteligible players and you’ll see it listed there under Kane’s name. Born Vancouver, Aug. 2, 1991. 6’1”. Competitive.
But this recurring description of his play — the fearlessness and drive with which Kane attacks the net — hardly does him justice.
It doesn’t describe how Kane didn’t start playing until he was eight, then quickly caught up to other kids. Or how he dropped down in minor hockey to house league as a peewee so he could transfer to the well-funded North Shore Winter Club, where Kane suffered culture shock.
Or the sacrifices his workingclass family from east Vancouver, near John Oliver high school at East 41st and Fraser, made for him. And the countless hours Kane trained with his dad, Perry, a former boxer and junior player who runs a bread-making business in his spare time out of the Bon Bon Bakery on Victoria Drive — surely the first boxerbaker-hockey-player-maker in history.
Eighteen players were chosen aheadofKaneinthe2006WHL bantam draft, which fueled him. And so, too, did the prejudice he says he encountered as the son of a black father and white mother.
Yes, Evander Kane is competitive.
He was named after boxer Evander Holyfield and he has needed a strong chin.
“Not being white is a challenge in itself,” Kane says. “Much as people don't want to believe that, I think it is. In minor hockey, therewasdefinitelysomeadversity. I had to earn everything I got. I’m a stronger person for it.
“Just growing up, I always wanted to be the best player I could be and better than other players. It’s going to be no different as I continue.”
Three years ago, nobody projected Kane, then 5’8”, to become an elite NHL draft pick. Gilbert Brule, the former Giant from North Vancouver who was chosen sixth in the 2005 draft, was a star before he ever played in the WHL. Kane climbed into the spotlight.
Within days of his callup to the Giants, Hay, not known for hyperbole, was comparing Kane’s competitiveness to Darcy Tucker’s. And in the Memorial Cup that year, Hay jettisoned 19year-old sniper Tim Kraus in order to play his 15-year-old.
Kane’s physical development, combined with his speed, power and hunger for the net, draw comparisons to Iginla, the Calgary Flames’ star who played for Hay in Kamloops and is likely to captain Canada’s Olympic team next year.
“If you compare Jarome's stats in his draft-eligible year, Evander is far ahead of him,” one B.C.-based NHL scout says. “Evander is a tremendous finisher. I certainly think it translates to the next level. Mentally, he’s wired for professional sports. His competition level is among the highest I’ve ever seen. He makes players compete even in practice.”
NHL Central Scouting rates Kane as the third-best North American skater and The Hockey News lists him fifth over-all. He could be the first player chosen after the consensus top three of John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene. The Atlanta Thrashers pick fourth.
The Vancouver Canucks, alas, choose 22nd on Friday.
“He has game-breaking speed and exceptional offensive instincts,” Canuck assistant general manager Laurence Gilman says. “On top of that ... he's a fine, young man who has his priorities in order. You can tell he is driven and he’s going to be a very good National Hockey League player.”
Headlined by 2007 third-pick Kyle Turris of New Westminster and 2004 fourth pick Andrew Ladd of Maple Ridge, there has been a dam-burst of B.C. players drafted into the NHL this decade. But none in the top five from within Vancouver city limits since Beck, another east-end kid, went second 22 years ago.
“To be honest, I've always expected this from myself,” Kane says. “I don't know if anyone else did, but this was what I wanted to do. This was my plan right from the beginning.”
Kane could be in the NHL next season. He turns 18 in August.
“He’ll go to training camp [in the NHL] and believe he is the best left winger on that team,” Giants’ GM Scott Bonner says. “His makeup is so competitive. And he’s motivated. I’m doing my lineup [for next season] and he’s not in it. If he comes back, we’ll do cartwheels.”
Someone somewhere will be doing cartwheels for Kane.