Kane needs to move to NHL

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

The most asked question in hockey circles today is: Who will be the No. 1 pick in the National Hockey League draft?

The most asked question in London is: Will it be Knights forward Pat Kane? And No. 2 is: If he is, will he be back in London next season?

Kane has been linked to the Chicago Blackhawks, who have the No. 1 pick. He has everything the 'Hawks need, namely scoring.

If Chicago picks him, London can kiss him goodbye.

Now that doesn't mean he's ready to play in the NHL. Kane is talented, but last year's Ontario Hockey League playoffs showed he could still benefit from playing 30 minutes a game through what could be a 100-game season when the regular season, playoffs and the world junior tournament are taken into account.

But will that benefit be sufficient enough for Chicago -- or Philadelphia at No. 2 or Phoenix at No. * -- to send him back?

Not really.

What's Kane going to do back in London? He's already ripped the league apart the one season he played in it. Some nights he made things look embarrassingly easy. Coming back on what's likely going to be a better team isn't going to help him that much.

Dominating isn't going to teach him to move the puck quicker or give it up knowing he's going to get it back. He'll learn that quickly in the NHL if he wants to survive.

Can he get bigger and stronger? Sure he can, but it's nothing he can't do in Chicago and probably do better.

Maybe he didn't play well against the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL final. He showed he has a lot to learn playing against men.

But what better place to do that than in the NHL.

Whatever team drafts Kane will be smart enough to know how to use him. They'll play him where his offensive talents can be maximized.

He won't have to play against the other team's top line or biggest players night in and night out.

The 12-15 minutes a night he'll play with an NHL team will force him to become better.

Make no mistake. Kane has all the attributes of becoming a top flight NHL player. He has the "gifts" that hockey gods bestow on special players. Even though he's not the biggest guy in the world, what makes him different are the intangibles.

Some players have great talent but no grit. He has grit. Some offensively gifted players only go where it's easy. Kane isn't frightened.

He also has the right amount of cockiness that all players who want to excel exhibit.

Kane will survive and thrive if used the right way. Of course Knights fans would love to see him back. But if he's picked No. 1, Kane won't want to come back. If he is sent back, he'll go through what every junior player in his situation goes through, the three-month sulk.

Kane's selection will begin a remarkable evening for hockey in this city and area. Not only will Kane go early but Knights teammate Sam Gagner will probably not last past the seventh pick. Akim Aliu, even though he wasn't a Knight until recently, will hear his named called by an NHL team.

It all speaks to where the London Knights program has gone. Whether or not you like the Hunters and how they operate, there is no denying what they've accomplished in their time here. They've put together a program that will continue to attract top-notch players.

There's a standard line all hockey people use, a line that the Hunters have used especially when they talk about losing a player who still has junior eligibility, such as Rick Nash or Kane.

"That's why we do this."

Now they may say it grudgingly because they know full well how much more they could have accomplished had Nash stuck around or if Kane sticks around.

But it is why they do it. When Gary Bettman announces in the first seven picks that "Pat Kane of the London Knights" has been selected followed closely by Gagner, it's not something to which a lot of junior teams can lay claim.

It's big hockey news and a high note for this city.

But it's also the high note for the organization. There is no greater selling point than sending players to the NHL.


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