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Like him or not, Kane is well worth keeping

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Fact 1: Over the last three National Hockey League seasons only 15 players have scored more 5-on-5 goals than Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets.

That list, FYI, includes Kane's teammate Andrew Ladd, and NHL heavyweights like Steven Stamkos. Phil Kessel, Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry and Jonathan Toews,

Fact 2: Kane doesn't turn 23 until August and already has 99 goals in 324 NHL games.

Fact 3: No player on the Jets' roster has had his name linked to more trade rumours than Kane. In the last month alone he's been rumoured to be headed to Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Chicago, Los Angeles, Ottawa, New York Rangers, Edmonton and Buffalo. And, undoubtedly, he's been whispered to be off to more destinations as well.

Now, as we continue with the third chunk of our 'Jets At the Draft' series examining the organization's depth at five positions heading into this weekend's annual future talent grab in Philadelphia -- centre, right and left wing, defence and goaltender -- it should be said that no one has been more polarizing in these parts than the man who wears No. 9.

Depending on your level of love/hate for the speedy winger, Kane is either a gifted player about to become an elite sniper or a selfish blankedy-blank that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff should have on the next Greyhound out of River City.

Kane's 2013-14 season was all over the map, from telling TSN's Gord Miller during a game in last fall that he was a healthy scratch when the medical staff hadn't cleared him, to his senseless fight with Eric Brewer with 20 seconds left in a loss to Tampa that saw him injure his hand and then miss games, to a banishment to the press box by Paul Maurice for a Hockey Night in Canada clash in Toronto in April.

And, despite all the dramatics and four separate visits to sick bay, Kane did still manage to score 19 goals in 63 games, flash some dynamic chemistry when working with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and pot four game-winners: giving him with 12 over three years in Winnipeg, tied for the most on the team with Ladd.

In fact, while it might be tempting to see what Kane might fetch on the trade market, the counter is what could unfold if he is healthy and focussed. And if he keeps his spot on the left side with Scheifele and Wheeler -- coupled with Ladd's consistent production since he arrived in a trade from Chicago -- the Jets actually have two solid left wingers at the top of their depth chart.

But as much as what might unfold with Kane remains one of the intriguing potential subplots of this week's draft and the summer ahead, it's what management does to upgrade the third and fourth lines -- including the left side -- that has to remain near the top of the To-Do list.

And here's why:

Eric Tangradi has just four goals and 10 points in 91 games since coming over from Pittsburgh while James Wright has two goals and seven points in 97 games as a Jet. Tangradi was thought to be the big-body type the Jets would need in the Western Conference while Wright, who is a penalty-kill specialist, saw his role on special-teams diminish as Paul Maurice relied more on his regulars to work on that unit.

The left side organizationally also looks thin, even with converted centre Patrice Cormier having taken a lot of turns there for the St. John's IceCaps. Russian Ivan Telegin, who had long been touted as a future NHLer in grooming, has been felled by a series of injuries. He played only 34 games for the IceCaps in 2012-13 and then, after being suspended for failing to report there this past season, signed with the KHL's CSKA Moscow in January but was still fighting post-concussion syndrome.

But the 22-year-old's misfortune continued as, according to someone in the Jets' organization, he suffered another injury that required a medical procedure that caused him to miss the entire year.

In fact, with Telegin fighting the injury bug it could be said the best left wing prospect in the Jets' organization is Axel Blomqvist, the 6-6 Swede who passed through last year's NHL Draft but had an excellent season with Lethbridge and Victoria in the Western Hockey League.

And maybe that -- the can't-miss-prospect stalled by injury and the undrafted kid rising to prominence -- is a key fact to remember here:

All clubs must always be forever evaluating their depth chart and stockpiling draft picks because, as the Jets know full well, there are no guarantees in any of this.

This is the third in a series. Tomorrow: Part 4 -- Defence.

 

LEFT WING -- What's in the Jets' system:

THE JETS

Andrew Ladd: He's been steady offensively, a good captain and absolutely hates to lose. So, what's not to like? Not an elite offensive producer, but a good fit on the Jets' top line.Ladd FYI: Age: 28. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 78; G: 23; A: 31; Pts: 54.Contract: Two years remaining on current deal ($4.4 million cap hit).


Evander Kane: Lots of talent, but is there more maturing to his game or is what you see, what you get -- both on and off the ice? Tons of rumours swirling around him as the draft approaches.
Kane FYI: Age: 22. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 63; G: 19; A: 22; Pts: 41
Contract: Four years remaining ($5.25 million cap hit)


Eric Tangradi: His minutes are limited -- 8:38 a game last year -- but it's what he does with them that leaves fans wanting more. He's 6-4, 221 but doesn't always play big.
Tangradi FYI: Age: 25. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 55; G: 3; A: 3; Pts: 6.
Contract: One year remaining at $675,000.


James Wright: His name gets circled when everyone talks about fixing the bottom half of the Jets' forward lines. His role has been reduced, his offensive production is virtually nil.
Wright FYI: Age: 24. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 59; G: 0; A: 2; Pts: 2.
Contract: Restricted free agent ($650,000 cap hit).

TOP LEFT WING PROSPECT

Axel Blomqvist, Victoria Royals: Was undrafted in 2013 after scoring just seven goals and 33 points in 59 games with Lethbridge. But the Jets saw something in him, especially at their D-Camp last summer and signed him... Put up good numbers in the WHL last year with Lethbridge and Victoria (24 goals, 32 assists in 65 games)... Still needs to put more meat on his 6-6, 212-pound frame (he's already added about 20 pounds) but the Jets feel they've got a late bloomer here.

THE ICE CAPS

Jason Jaffray: St. John's captain is now 32 and still productive after leading the IceCaps in scoring. His days of being an option for the Jets have passed, but he's critical to the growth and development of their prospects on the farm.
Kyle Mouillierat: Another good, solid AHLer. Now 26, he has been productive on The Rock, with 85 points in 110 games.
Patrice Cormier: He's never been prolific offensively, even in junior, but he is -- as Newfoundlanders would say -- a pain in the arse to play against. He's 6-2, 215 and has shown flashes to be worth a look for a bottom-six role with the Jets.
Josh Lunden: See above. He's 28 and been a good AHLer with four teams.

IN THE SYSTEM

(draft picks or players under NHL deals)
Ivan Telegin, CKSA Moscow: His details are listed in the accompanying story. For the first two years of this series was listed as the Jets' top LW prospect.Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Quinnipiac University: A Thrashers' 7th-round pick in 2009, Samuels-Thomas has put up good offensive totals with the Bobcats with 30 goals and 58 points in 77 games over the past two years.

THE NHL'S BEST

By comparison, a look at some the NHL's top left wings (ranked by 2013-14 scoring):
TAYLOR HALL, EDM.: GP: 75; G: 27; A: 53; Pts: 80
JAMIE BENN, DAL.: GP: 81; G: 34; A: 45; Pts: 79
PATRICK SHARP, CHI.: GP: 82; G: 34; A: 44; Pts: 78
PATRICK MARLEAU, SJ: GP: 82; G: 33; A: 37; Pts: 70
CHRIS KUNITZ, PITT.: GP: 78; G: 35; A: 33; Pts: 68.
OTHER NOTABLE LEFT WINGS: Thomas Vanek, Buff-NYI-Mtl; Gabriel Landeskog, Col; Alex Steen, St. L; Zach Parise, Minn.; Max Pacioretty, Mtl.; Milan Lucic, Bos.

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2014 ??65533

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Updated on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 8:29 AM CDT: Formats text. removes photos

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