There is absolutely nothing more enjoyable than escaping the heat and humidity that accompanies mid-July in Georgia by gathering with fellow Thrashers fans inside of the Duluth Ice Forum for a little prospect development camp watching!
One of the things that really struck me right off the bat was the size of these kids out there. The organization has stocked the talent pond full of some big prospects indeed and I was very impressed with a few of the guys out there…specifically Paul Postma, Eric O’Dell and Jeremy Morin.
However, the one player that impressed me the most was the one I made the trek to Duluth to see… the 4th overall selection in last month’s draft, Evander Kane. Like you, I’ve read about his play…looked at the stats he’s put up with the WHL Vancouver Giants…seen the scouting reports. But none of that equals being able to put your eyes on the player for yourself and witness what all the hype is all about.
This kid has such a smooth skating ability and he’s got a wicked as hell wrister…a very quick release. Plus, he has no problems driving strong to the net. He certainly does have all the tools. But having the physical ability to play in the NHL is half the battle. One has to be ready to do this mentally as well…possessing the right attitude and presence.
As Don Waddell told Chris Vivlamore recently, “This will be a good week for us to spend with Evander because, I’ve always said, all of a sudden you hand these kids hundreds of thousands of dollars, is that too much for an 18-year-old player? There’s so much besides the hockey side that goes into [making an NHL roster]. We have to make sure that maturity-wise, he’s there also.”
Bogosian had this last summer. There was little doubt in the minds of those who watched him skate and play that he was ready to play up in the NHL and that placing him anywhere else was would be a disservice to him and the organization.
Kane seems to have this certain “something” as well. You can see it in his eyes as he goes about his work on the ice. It’s a confidence in his ability and a sureness in his movement.
After welcoming Evander to Atlanta and chatting with him briefly, I asked him, “Do you expect to play in Atlanta this fall”?
“Absolutely”, he responded with a smile on his face.
There was no hesitation…no hedging…no pondering. It also wasn’t a cocky or arrogant response…just a simple expression of the belief in himself, his ability and what he can do.
When discussing Kane’s presence on and off of the ice with radio voice of the Thrashers Dan Kamal simply nodded his head at me and said, “It’s what Darren Eliot calls the ‘it’ factor”.
The “it” factor… the intangible possession that sets some apart from the others. Some have it, some don’t, it’s not anything that can be schooled or coached… and it’s what can catapult a pretty good prospect into a very fine, if not great, player.
And Kane seems to possess “it”.
Almost as soon as Evander de-planed last week, he was being put in front of the Atlanta audience as he was interviewed on Fox 5’s Good Day Atlanta. He should get used to this type of activity because the Thrashers organization could…and should… use a kid like this to market their product. And he seems more than capable of such a task.
Again…that’s the “it” factor at work.
But the off-ice exposure and abilities have to be matched by the on-ice performance. He’s shown the ability to excel against his peers so far but his next big step will be in September when we get to see how he measures up to proven NHL players in training camp and the preseason. If he’s able to take full advantage of the opportunity afforded him there…and right now there is no reason for me to believe he won’t…then the next step will see how he fairs in his rookie NHL season.
And “it” will be exciting to watch.
Bloggers At The (Locker Room) Gate
Ben Wright and the Thrashers organization were kind enough to allow some of the local blogging community to join the media access session in the player’s locker room Saturday afternoon.
Personally, I just had a nice time chatting with some of these kids…many of whom are only a few month older than my oldest tax exemption. These prospects are being given the opportunity of a lifetime and how they respond and play will determine their future. Many simply commented on how the trainers and staff were working them hard and helping them in so many aspects of their game and how greatful they were for this chance to refine their skills in front of those who’s opinions mattered.
Now, because I have two teenage sons who played on the same team together…and I understand how bothers can be…I simply had to ask Vinny and Victor Saponari if, when playing against the other, they took a little more pleasure in a good, clean, open ice check against their brother.
“Oh yeah”, Victor replied, “Mostly we played together, but when we did play on opposite sides, you always want to make sure you win that battle”.
After responding much the same way his brother did, Vinny added, “We kind of push each other…prod each other along and try to get the best out of the other. It’s a good rivalry”.
Mom would be proud boys.
Some of the bloggers who were there have weighed in already with their stories and I’m happy to share them with you.
Laura of Wazzupwitchu says, Guys, quick, put on a towel“.
Here is the always educational Falconer’s chat with Ed Pasquale.
TimmyF of Thrashing About has posted the first audio clip of the mostly civil “media scrum” around Kane, Paul Postma and Zach Redmond.
Big Shooter and Mortimer Peacock of the Blueland Chronicle chime in with comments from Saturday…and it looks like Big Shooter’s big day involved more than just hockey.
Aaron runs things at Blueland Outsider and here is his chat with John Albert, Atlanta’s 6th round pick in 2007.
And finally…foocow shares his thoughts on prospect camp 2009.