Kane able to think big

Jets forward Evander Kane will be wearing No. 9 for the club next season and he hopes to remind the...

Jets forward Evander Kane will be wearing No. 9 for the club next season and he hopes to remind the fans of another famous No. 9 in a Winnipeg jersey. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency file photo)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

WINNIPEG - He’ll definitely wear No. 9, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll even remind us of the Golden Jet.

Evander Kane, fresh off his 20th birthday, says it’s time for him to take the next step in his career, and that means scoring 20-plus goals and becoming an offensive force for the Winnipeg Jets.

“I was drafted to score goals — I know I’m a goal scorer,” Kane told the Sun from Vancouver, Wednesday. “There’s no reason this year I’m not going to produce and build on what I did last year. You always want to get better every year, and that’s been my focus since I was eight years old and started playing hockey.”

Kane last season scored 19 times, once for every year he’s been breathing, and five more than he scored as a rookie.

He’s keeping his personal goals to himself, but acknowledges this most special of seasons for Winnipeg hockey fans is going to be special for him, too.

“This is a big year for me,” the Vancouver product said. “I’m looking forward to playing before a hockey-crazy city in front of passionate fans, playing in a big-time hockey market. It’s the last year of my contract, and we have such a good group of core guys and a solid team. If we can put it together, we can do some damage and make the playoffs, and anything can happen.

“I’m looking forward to really having a big year and showing everybody what I can do.”

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds — and, presumably, still filling out — Kane has mouthwatering potential.

Sounds like his head is screwed on straight, too, based on how he celebrated his 20th birthday a couple weeks ago.

“I trained.”

What a party animal.

Kane must figure the partying can come when the Jets win the NHL East.

Seriously, he thinks the former Atlanta Thrashers can be a contender in Year 1 at Portage and Hargrave.

“This team could be a top team in the conference,” he said. “We have the players that are able to do it. And now that we have a new organization and a new philosophy, it’s going to be a good recipe for success.”

Kane figures all the concerns about goal-scoring up front are unfounded.

And if Winnipeggers are going to be surprised at one thing, it’ll be how much this team reminds us of the Jets glory days, when they were led by that other No. 9.

“We’ve got a lot of speed, and we’re pretty exciting to watch,” Kane said. “That’s going to be a real surprise for a lot of people, not just Winnipeg fans, who weren’t seeing us on TV every night like some other teams. We get kind of the short end of the stick on our skill level, just because there’s not a lot of household names. We’re an entertaining team.”

As for his jersey number, Kane never did talk to Bobby Hull about it.

But if anybody thinks his taking Hull’s old number is sacrilegious, you should know he offered to change but was stopped in his tracks by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

“I presented Chevy and the team with some numbers that I wanted,” he said. “They kind of shot them down, and really encouraged me to wear No. 9.”

So he’s going with it, and I don’t have a problem with it.

The Jets will find a way to honour their past. I hear the WHA Hall of Fame is still looking for a permanent display, and wouldn’t be surprised if that winds up here.

From the logo, which I’m not crazy about, to the players, the vast majority of which are on the sunny side of 30, this team is about the future, not the past.

That said, nobody’s going to complain if the sight of No. 9 lighting the lamp brings back some fond memories.


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