TORONTO – Evander Kane feels like he’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime.
The 17-year-old forward officially joined the Canadian junior team early Monday morning after a long day of travel from Vancouver. He endured a four-hour flight delay and baggage problems, but didn’t see any reason to complain after finally meeting up with his Canadian teammates.
And who can blame him?
The closest Kane figured he’d get to the world junior championship this year was watching it on TV. That changed after Dana Tyrell suffered a serious knee injury during an exhibition game on Friday night and Kane was summoned as his replacement.
“Everybody has watched the world juniors since they were young with their dad or their parents,” he said. “It’s something that you aspire to be a part of one day.
“Now that it’s come for me, I’m obviously extremely excited to be here.”
His opportunity comes at a particularly important time.
Kane joins John Tavares and defenceman Ryan Ellis as the only three draft-eligible players on the Canadian team. While his stock has been on the rise after a great start with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants this season, the opportunity to play on a big stage in front of scouts from every NHL organization is huge.
“Playing at this tournament is going to be lots of exposure,” said Kane. “It’s something that you have to accept and kind of feed off of. It’s going to definitely be a big situation for me.
“I’m looking forward to showing everybody what I can do.”
That’s not something it looked like he would have the opportunity to do after being one of the 16 players cut after the selection camp ended in Ottawa earlier this month.
His age may have been the biggest thing that worked against him there. The world junior championship is mainly a showcase of 19-year-old players so it can be difficult for younger guys to make an impact.
“It was disappointing,” said Kane. “I thought I had played well. Obviously, it was a decision that was made and I was OK with it.
“I wanted to make the team the first time but they told me that if there’s an injury that I would be one of the guys that they would be looking at. Here I am.”
Of course, he didn’t return home thinking that would actually happen. Kane played in Vancouver’s 8-1 win over Swift Current last week and said he was simply enjoying the Christmas break that came after.
In the meantime, Tyrell underwent an MRI and found out he’ll need surgery that will almost certainly end his WHL season with the Prince George Cougars. The 19-year-old has returned to Airdrie, Alta., to consult with some doctors and spend Christmas with his family. He says he might come to Ottawa to watch the latter stages of the world junior tournament.
His absence will be noticed by the Canadian team.
“Young Tyrell, we’re going to miss him,” said coach Pat Quinn. “We didn’t replace him with the selection we made here but we took someone who will give us a little bit of (physical play), but also has some scoring prowess and is young.”
Quinn gave his players the day off Monday. The team will return to the ice for an exhibition game at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton on Tuesday before flying to the nation’s capital for the start of the tournament.
Kane is eager to get going – no matter what capacity he ends up getting used in.
“I think I bring a scoring threat to the table and a lot of speed,” said Kane. “Whatever way they want to use that is up to them.”
He wasn’t watching the exhibition game when Tyrell was injured and didn’t find out it was serious until Quinn phoned him on Saturday afternoon. He was on a plane the next morning.
After flying across the country and joining the team, Kane conceded that the last couple of days had been like a whirlwind.
“I didn’t think I’d be coming back this early by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “But it’s nice to be back and it’s good to be here.”