Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The next Iginla?

A red-hot start has young Jets power forward Evander Kane looking like a potential superstar

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With the Twitter and trade talk behind him, Evander Kane is creating a new kind of conversation with his all-star calibre play.

The Jets forward has blown up on the NHL scene, with a scorching start to the season that has him 47th in league scoring with 21 points.

His 14 goals are fourth best in the NHL and has people league-wide discussing his potential all-star status.

Kane will need to keep up his pace and maybe even increase it to get the nod but the NHL's hockey operations types have taken notice.

"We haven't really started talking about all-star but we talk about players all the time and his name comes up," said an NHL executive at this week's Board of Governors meetings in California. "We'll see. He's got a chance and so does the goalie (Ondrej Pavelec) there."

The 21-year-old Kane has gone from prospect to game changer this season and has unbottled the speed and shot that separate him from almost all other players in the league.

It's a stretch at this point to call Kane the next Jarome Iginla and slot him in as Canada's top power forward but certainly it can be seen in the distance.

Big and unafraid to go in the hard areas, Kane has all the talent needed to be one of the game's best. If he's not an all-star this season he'll be very close. But there's even more available to Kane if he can add a few more facets to his game. Superstar is not out of the question.

Each conference takes 18 skaters and three goalies to the all-star game with the starting six selected by fan balloting and the remainder added by the NHL's hockey ops.

Kane sits 13th in scoring among league left-wingers so he's not an automatic. The all-star game is well over a month away, however, leaving him some time to improve his case.

There are flaws; one look at his assist total and it's easy to conclude Kane doesn't distribute the puck very well. All his offence comes from his speed and his shot and not from finding others on the ice.

Whether that's a lack of vision and hockey sense or just a young player finding his stride and confidence and holding the puck so he can shoot as often as possible remains to be seen.

It's not a bad thing at this point and Kane will almost certainly smash his previous career point totals and that's a good thing.

The player has matured and while Kane must get most of the credit for this, coach Claude Noel has played a part as well.

Noel has challenged Kane in a number of ways and found the way to get the him to respond.

Noel kept seeing one player pop out last summer as he was watching tape of the Atlanta Thrashers. It was Kane, again and again, who caught Noel's eye.

Noel, when asked about his thoughts on the team that would soon be his Winnipeg Jets, repeatedly told listeners that Kane's talent was impressive and the player had the potential to be a star.

Noel challenged Kane to take his game to the next level, suggesting he could be a big time scorer if he could earn the ice time needed to rack up heavy numbers.

Kane has lived up to both ends of the bargain to date, earning the ice and then cashing in on his opportunities.

Like most of the young players that moved north when Thrashers became Jets, Kane was faced with lots of new challenges. From a more demanding fan base and media attention to a coach that wasn't interested in allowing youth to be an excuse for taking the easy way on the ice.

Kane may or may have chafed under Noel's bridle and trade demand rumours were hot enough that the player was forced to dismiss them in the media.

But it's been nothing but three-star twirls and smiles for the cameras for the last 20 games as Kane has become Winnipeg's most prolific and consistent scorer.

The best player on the team? Not yet -- Kane still needs to complete his game but that's got to be around the corner.

Winnipeggers wondered aloud when they got their Jets back if the city would be able to attract superstar talent. In Kane they had it hand delivered.

Keeping him will be the next step.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

more nhl coverage on c2-3

BY THE NUMBERS

GP Goals Assists Points PIM +/-

2009-10 Atlanta Thrashers 66 14 12 26 62 2

2010-11 Atlanta Thrashers 73 19 24 43 68 -12

2011-12 Winnipeg Jets 26 14 7 21 23 5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2011 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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