100 games a season: Gare Joyce's puck blog

Just like being in the scouts' & press' lounge, without the bad coffee and day-old Timbits

Location: Toronto

I've written for ESPN The Magazine and espn.com the last five years. My work has made the "notable" list of the Best American Sports Writing seven times and won four Canadian National Magazine Awards. My most recent book is Future Greats and Heartbreaks: A Year Undercover in the Secret World of NHL Scouts. I've written three other sports books: When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game; Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm; and The Only Ticket Off the Island: Baseball in the Dominican Republic.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Patrick Kane: Likely No. 1 Central Scouting Be Damned

In the mid-term draft rankings NHL Central Scouting has forward Patrick Kane (London Knights) fourth among North American skaters. Hard to figure. The rumbles in the scouts' room in Kitchener last night where the Knights played the Rangers: Kane's the best draft-eligible player out there.

It stands to reason that CSB has him low. CSB has James Van Riemsdyk (the US u-18 program) ranked No.2 but he didn't get on the ice at the world juniors, while Kane played on the first line and didn't look out of place. Fact is, he and Kyle Okposo (U Minn and NYI 2006 draft) were easily the most impressive forwards on the US side. CSB has Kane's London team-mate Sam Gagner No. 3 and though Gagner was the draft eligible forward Canada brought to world jrs he didn't play. (He didn't play in Kitchener last night. He was up in press box with a concussion.) Kane's numbers with London are better than Gagner's and the scouts are not enthusiastic about the ex-NHLer's son.

And then there's the anointed No. 1, Angelo Esposito of the Quebec Remparts. Scouts are pretty lukewarm on Esposito and completely respect Kane's game. Esposito had a perfect showcase at world jrs* but didn't own it the way he should have. One scout I talked to told me that Espo wasn't half the player that Kyle Turris was at summer-18s. (Turris, who plays for Burnaby in Tier II, is CSB's fifth-ranked North American skater but again that might be low. He get marks off for playing Tier II, his commitment to Wisconsin might bug some who'd prefer him to play CHL.)

Kane's a curious case. Comes from that hockey hotbed down the QEW, Buffalo. Looks undersized on the eyeball-to-eyeball, could he be even smaller than his 5-9 and a half and 160? When I talked to him at the world jrs he seemed pretty low-key, soft-spoken off the ice. On the ice, well, he fit right in with the all-attitude American team.

He had a good game last night against Kitchener--couple of dazzling moves, a shoot-out goal. Scouts love his stick. His skating is good, but not great. That said, he never seems to get pushed off the puck, plays keepaway really artfully, and when you think you've got him tied up he can wheel and deal really neatly.

I saw that Pierre Maguire was laying it on about Kane the other day--hey, what the guy won't do to fill airtime. Did he just get the news that Kane led the US to the u-18 gold last spring and led the team in scoring? Or was there a press release noting that Kane broke the US development program's season-scoring record previously held by Phil Kessel? Kane's real. And if he plays in the NHL next season he'll be the youngest-looking kid in the league since Daniel Briere broke in.

* typo, should be "U-18s"

The fine print ... What a hit London's Sergei Kostitsyn put on Steve Downie last night. Absolutely clean. Downie, aka the Canadian Hero, had his head down and was going full blast when Kostitsyn came off the bench and caught him flush. Trainer was on the ice for three minutes. Montreal scored getting Kostitsyn in the 7th round in 05. A complete forward, he did a great job on a 5-on-3 PK that kept the game tied in third. That he was the guy tabbed for the job says you need to know about him. Belarus kid. I say he'll be a better NHLer than Downie--I'd put money on it but you'd have to give me odds.