BY JORDAN SAMERY
What a couple of years it’s been for Patrick Kane.
In the span of 18 months, the Buffalo native has gone from near obscurity playing his first year for the London Knights of the Ontario League, to a potential first round talent, to the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft. That’s what happens when you score 145 points for one of Canada’s high profile junior teams, on a line with future NHL rookie stars Sergei Kostitsyn and Sam Gagner, to boot.
For most people, that would have been enough.
Not for Kane.
Kane was insistent on making the Blackhawks roster out of training camp and managed to earn a spot despite having a sub-par pre-season. He capped off his remarkable rise by capturing the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year Thursday night in Toronto, beating out teammate Jonathan Toews and the Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom.
For Kane, though, this can only be the sign of more greatness to come.
Usually the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association gets this award right. The past two winners were both up for the Hart and Pearson trophies this year. Not that anyone expects Kane to turn into an Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin. At least not yet.
The Calder is a rite of passage to NHL stardom. Read off the list of recent winners and you get the sense the voters truly know what they’re doing: Malkin, Ovechkin, Dany Heatley, Evgeni Nabokov, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury…the list goes on.
OK, so there were also the two years before the lockout when the award went to Barret Jackman and Andrew Raycroft, both of whom have gone on to, let’s say, less than spectacular careers.
But look who else was in the top five in Jackman’s year: Henrik Zetterberg and Rick Nash finished second and third respectively.
Anyone check for hanging chads on those ballots, by the way?
This isn’t to say Toews and Backstrom aren’t destined for stardom, as well, but winning the Calder is kind of like having a Bar-Mitzvah. You don’t need one to grow up, but it’s pretty cool having all your family and friends dress up real nice and come to a party just to tell you, “You are now a man!” Plus, the gifts are pretty sweet.
At Kane’s press conference, he was asked how he would describe to one of his buddies the differences between life back home in Buffalo and his life the past year in the NHL.
“It’s pretty much completely different,” Kane replied.
And to summarize the reaction from the press corps, “well, duh.”
For Kane, his career is in full blossom. Not only did he win the Calder, but he also won a bet with his fellow nominee and teammate Toews for $500 over who would win the award.
Let’s just call it a Bar-Mitzvah gift.