Kane going in alone

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Almost every young hockey player who sees a future for himself in the sport has an agent.

London Knights forward Sam Gagner, who is expected to be selected among the first half-dozen picks in the NHL draft on Friday in Columbus, is represented by Toronto's Mike Gillis. Nearly everyone whose name will be called this weekend -- and plenty who won't -- will have someone working on their behalf.

For U.S. college players, the term for that helpful person is referred to as "family advisor" because the NCAA doesn't allow agents.

But the skater who could very well walk onto the stage before anybody else and command the biggest payday as the NHL's No. 1 pick of 2007 won't have a hired gun in his corner. When you know the reason why, you get a little insight into what drives London Knights star forward Pat Kane.

"The thing about not having an agent is I remember when I was younger, there were players bigger and stronger than I was and the agents would always come around and talk to those guys who had the hype behind them," the 18-year-old Buffalo native said.

"Then, when I became a little older and more well-known, there were people who were hounding me to sign with them. So I never felt, to this point, I needed an agent. I felt I owed it to myself to go into the draft without an agent because I'm the one who got me here."

Kane isn't naive enough to expect that he can handle all the business aspects and demands of professional hockey life on his own and knows he will soon have to relent and choose representation "for endorsements and things like that," he said.

He is looking at a few options and London's Siskinds Sports Management, which handles Oshawa Generals forward and future NHL top pick John Tavares, is in the mix. "Those guys (Bryan Deasley and Brian MacDonald) are a lot of fun," Kane said.

But agents, commercials and contracts aren't what Kane will be thinking about when he's picked by either Chicago or Philadelphia (or possibly Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes), then called up for the familiar ball cap-and-sweater routine to be followed by an onslaught of photos and interviews.

Instead, he'll be thinking about his parents Pat and Donna.

"They let me leave home at 14 to play hockey and they've been supportive the whole way," Kane said. "Without them, I wouldn't be in this position to go first overall."

Like hockey legends Maurice (Rocket) Richard and Wayne Gretzky, Kane played on numerous minor hockey teams at once. His father drove him all over New York State and to Canada for games and practices, which spawned a memorable and humourous moment for the youngster when he asked his dad in the car, "What team am I playing for this time?"

Four years ago, his parents allowed him to move from Buffalo to Michigan to live at former NHLer Pat Verbeek's house and play in the Detroit Honeybaked hockey program. He was drafted by London in 2004, but decided to play for the United States national development program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Considered a shoo-in to star at a top U.S. college school, Kane took a long time to look over his options and, after talking to Owen Sound's Bobby Ryan, decided to join the Knights and give the OHL a shot.

Usually, London GM Mark Hunter has a good idea what a player he recruits will end up doing and it's a fairly quick sale once the ball begins to roll. But that wasn't how it worked this time.

"We like to go slow and not rush into anything," Kane said. "I wanted to consider everything before making my decision and it ended up being a good choice for me. Playing in London with 9,000 people in the crowd, it's kind of like playing in the NHL and I think it helps prepare you for that kind of atmosphere."

It was worth the wait. Kane scored 62 goals, won the league points title and rookie of the year honours, matched the output from the previous year of former New York state star Rob Schremp and answered every critic who thought his five-foot-nine, 160-pound frame would be worn down by the longer major junior season.

In fact, he got better as the year went on. After starring as the United States' best player at the world juniors over Christmas and New Year's, he came back and lit up opposing OHL teams.

Heading into the draft, Kane can lean on Mark Hunter, coach Dale Hunter and assistant GM Jim McKellar, who have been through all this top-pick hype with former Knight Rick Nash.

"The biggest thing they tell me is that it's the opportunity of a lifetime and you only go through it once, so enjoy it," Kane said.

One phone message he saved for a long time was from Nash, who called him before last season. The two have never spoke in person, but Kane hopes he'll get the chance this weekend at the draft.

"I'm going to be picked at the arena (Nationwide Arena) where he plays (for the Blue Jackets)," Kane said. "It would mean something to me if I went No. 1 because he went No. 1 and played for the Knights."

Kane doesn't have the choice of what NHL city he will get to play in, so he sees no reason to outwardly express a preference.

"It would be an old cliche to say I'll just be happy to be picked by whoever takes me," he said, "but everyone has teams where they'd like to play, no question about it."

All he knows is he has another appointment with Chicago to meet with the Blackhawks on Friday at 9 a.m., when it's expected his brain will be picked by a team psychologist. Philly, which owns the second pick, is also interested in getting together with him one last time before Friday night.

"After the draft, I have to come back to London for another exam on Monday (at Saunders) and hopefully, I'll finally be done with my Grade 12 credits and graduate high school," Kane said.

He'll be back in London for the start of training camp, but he is challenging himself to stick in the NHL this year. He knows it can go either way -- 2005 top pick Sidney Crosby stuck in the NHL, but No. 2 pick Bobby Ryan returned to the OHL for another year of seasoning.

"I just feel like I'm ready for the next step," he said. "If worst comes to worst and I'm back in London next year for another year of development, I'll deal with that, but I want to play in the NHL next year."


Videos

Photos