The five-foot-nine right-winger led all major junior scorers with 62 goals and 83 assists for 145 points in 58 regular-season games in his rookie OHL season. He also gained ground in the prospect rankings by playing a key role, scoring five goals, for the U.S. team that won bronze at the world junior tournament.
Left-winger James vanRiemsdyk of the U.S. junior development team was selected second by the Philadelphia Flyers, and centre Kyle Turris of the Burnaby, B.C., Jr. A team was taken third by the Phoenix Coyotes.
When Chicago GM Dale Tallon announced his selection of Kane, who is from Buffalo, N.Y., it marked the first time in draft history that a U.S.-born player went No. 1 two years in a row. Defenceman Erik Johnson went first, to St. Louis, last year.
Kane will be given a chance to jump into the NHL next autumn because the Blackhawks don’t have a lot up front. They haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2002.
As his numbers show, Kane has a nose for the net. He’s got a great shot and good speed. The only knock against him has been his size. He only weighs about 160 pounds, but he could thrive in today’s NHL with tight application of interference and obstruction fouls.
Kane said he’d spend the summer working on developing more upper body strength. He’ll go to camp intent on staying with the Blackhawks.
“That’s my goal,” he said.
Tallon is optimistic.
“I think he’s got a great opportunity of making our team,” Tallon said.
The dynamic forward has a style that compares to that of Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk.
With the Blackhawks having signed North Dakota college star Jonathan Toews of Winnipeg, their first pick and third overall in the 2006 draft, a Toews-Kane tandem could give Chicago fans reason to cheer for years to come.
VanRiemsdyk, a six-foot-three, 200-pound forward, led the U.S. under-18 team with 33 goals and 30 assists in 43 games. He’s an imposing forward who is strong on the puck and who has as pro-level shot. He’s known for his work ethic and was a star on the U.S. world junior team.
“He reminds us a little bit of John LeClair,” said Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.
VanRiemsdyk says he’ll play for the University of New Hampshire this autumn so he’s not readily available to the Flyers.
It was the first time in draft history that Americans went 1-2.
Turris, a six-foot-one, 170-pound centre from New Westminster, B.C., scored 66 goals and assisted on 55 for 121 points in 53 games with the Burnaby Express and was named most valuable player in his league. He has the total skills package and plays hard at both ends of the ice.
Turris was a standout for Canada at the world under-18 tournament. Scouts say he has the potential to be a Joe Sakic-like NHL star. He is enrolling at the University of Wisconsin so, like VanRiemsdyk, he might be as many as four years away from turning pro.