Kane being wooed by London Knights

By Jason Menard

Pat Kane has shown that he is ready, willing, and able to take the next step in his hockey development. But like a debutante fresh off of her coming-out party, the much-ballyhooed 17-year-old has a slew of suitors looking to be his next dance partner.

Kane has a pair of big-name U.S. college programs actively interested in his services. And while the University of Michigan and Boston College can both claim they have the pole position in this race, the fact of the matter is that the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights couldn’t have written a better script than what the youngster was privy to at the John Labatt Centre recently.

The 5’10 gifted forward was in attendance on Apr. 28, 2006 as the Knights toppled the Guelph Storm to clinch the Wayne Gretzky Trophy and earn the right to face the Peterborough Petes for the OHL Championship and the right to challenge for the Memorial Cup. And while yet-another sell-out crowd only knew that they were celebrating their present success, they may have laid a significant stone in securing the franchise’s foundation.

“The fans here are unbelievable and this building is unbelievable,” Kane commented. “It’s the best atmosphere that I’ve seen – both in junior and college.

“That’ll definitely be a factor in wherever I go.”

Due to academic eligibility requirements Kane may not be eligible until the fall of 2007 and would have to play half a year in the USHL before being able to accept an offer from a U.S. college. Conversely, while playing for the Knights would eliminate any college eligibility Kane has, he would be playing a full season in what’s widely recognized as one of the top organizations in one of the world’s best developmental leagues. London selected the center in the fifth round, 88th overall in the 2004 OHL draft out of Honeybaked AAA.

In joining the Knights, Kane would automatically step into the role that impending graduates Rob Schremp (EDM) and Dylan Hunter (BUF) play and would see significant ice time, both in 5-on-5 and power play situations, in light of London head coach Dale Hunter’s belief of giving maximum minutes to his marquee players.

“I also have to decide what’s best for me,” Kane said. “I mean, do I want to move half-way through the season, or do I want to come here and play a full year?

“And if I do go to college, will I get as much ice time as I get here? I don’t think so.”

If Kane is the prize, the dowry his family expects is a future beyond hockey. “The schooling package will be a big factor,” Kane said. “It’s really important to my mom and dad that I go to school.”

He added that another major part of the equation is his future team’s proximity to home. That may tend to put London ahead in the running, considering that the city’s just a short drive down the QEW from Kane’s home in Buffalo.

The brightness of Kane’s future is only outshone by his luminous recent performances. Kane was a huge factor in leading the United States to gold in the IIHF’s Under-18 tournament in Halmstad, Sweden.

“I played pretty well in that tournament,” he said. “I started off slow, but was able to pick up the pace. The Germany game was a big turning point and then I think my biggest goal – even more than the tournament winner [against Finland] was the overtime goal against the Czechs. We had hardly faced any adversity until that game and we were able to pull through.”

Kane’s humility is admirable, considering the key role he played in the tournament, which ended on Apr. 22, 2006. The young forward averaged two points per game, including seven goals, over the six contests. His play at the tournament just reinforced the idea that no matter where he plays, he’ll make an impact.

And his performance at the IIHF tournament was just the icing on what’s already been a pretty tasty cake. This year he bested Phil Kessel’s U.S. National Team Development Program’s single-season scoring record of 98. In just 58 games, Kane averaged 1.76 points-per-game, racking up 52 goals on his way to earning 102 total points.

The young forward said he plans to make a decision within the next couple of weeks. Until then, he’s enjoying the process of being wooed.

“It’s been a little overwhelming, that’s for sure,” he explained. “But it’s been a great experience. Everyone that’s been chasing me represent pretty much the best that’s around. It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s nice to be wanted.”

Wanted. Should Kane continue to produce like he has to date, it’s a feeling that he’s going to have to get used to.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.