Kane pursuing goal with Knights

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Long before the London Knights and countless U.S. colleges started courting Pat Kane, the kid had already seen the stir a young hockey star from New York state could create.

"One time, my dad pulled me aside at the rink and told me to watch this one guy play," the newest Knight and 17-year-old Buffalo native said. "As soon as he said it, that guy grabbed the puck, went down the ice and scored a goal."

That guy was Rob Schremp, who won the OHL scoring title with the Knights last season and is now a prospect with the Edmonton Oilers.

As he mulled over his many hockey options, Kane showed up in London in April to watch Schremp and his buddies storm back from a late deficit to beat Guelph and advance to a second straight OHL championship series.

"It was an exciting game," Kane said. "They came back from two goals down and won in overtime. The atmosphere (in the John Labatt Centre) was great."

It's an atmosphere Kane wanted to see again. Top schools such as the University of Michigan and Boston College were eager for his services but the OHL's schedule makes it easier for NHL scouts to project how a top prospect will fare.

"My parents wanted me to do what I wanted to do and the United States (hockey programs) just wished me luck and told me hopefully we'll see you in December at the world juniors. I had to make the decision: Do I want to go to college or do I want to be a hockey player? I want to be a hockey player."

It's an attitude that's been ingrained in Kane for some time. A few years ago, he was lukewarm on travelling to Detroit to play for the Honeybaked midgets, but changed his mind when an added incentive was offered.

"I wasn't going to go but they told me I had the chance to live at (ex-NHLer and Petrolia native) Pat Verbeek's house, so I went. You hear you get the kind of chance to learn from an NHLer like that, you take it."

Though many OHL teams felt Kane was headed for the NCAA, London still selected him in the fifth round (88th overall) in 2004. GM Mark Hunter grinned as he handed Kane his new sweater yesterday with No. 88 on the back.

"I'm going with 88 because it was the year I was born," Kane said. "Sam (Gagner) is wearing No. 89 and Phil (McRae, who has also committed to the Knights) is 90. It's their birth years, too."

Though no one's expecting the rookie to post statistics comparable to Schremp or David Bolland, or even Dylan Hunter this season, there's agreement that Kane knows his way around the ice and will help make up for the loss of the veteran scorers.

"We went to Lake Placid (for the U.S. junior team training camp last week) to watch him play," said coach Dale Hunter. "He scored in every game he played. He outscored (Boston Bruins signee) Phil Kessel. He's a skilled player, a good passer and he can put the puck in the net if he's set up.

"He's a left-handed shot who can replace Rob (Schremp) on the half-boards on the power play. He'll get the chance to play a lot of minutes for us."

Kane acknowledges he's not the biggest (five-foot-10, 160 pounds), fastest or hardest-shooting player who ever lived. "I think I'm a smart player," he said. "I consider myself a winner. I want to help this team get to another championship."

Kane helped the U.S. win gold at the world under-18 championship in April, leading his team with seven goals and the tournament with 12 points. He led the U.S. in scoring at the 2004 under-17 Five Nations tournament and holds the U.S. national development program's single-season points record with 102 -- four more than Kessel's old mark.

"I haven't seen him play yet but I hear he's very skilled," said forward Adam Perry, who attended Kane's media conference yesterday with several teammates. "We all wanted to come out and meet him right now so he doesn't have to go through that later."

KNIGHTWATCH

Today: Training camp opens at John Labatt Centre with 80 players expected to report

First exhibition: Friday vs. Sarnia at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Regular season opener: Friday, Sept. 22, vs. Saginaw at 7:30 p.m. at the JLC


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