Atlanta’s Newest Evander

By Chris Vivlamore
Updated: June 27, 2009

MONTREAL — Evander Kane’s “welcome to the NHL” moment might have come minutes after being selected by the Thrashers.

“You’re going to look good next to Ilya Kovalchuk,” general manager Don Waddell told Kane right after taking him with the No. 4 overall pick in the first round of the NHL draft Friday.

The Thrashers selected the center from Vancouver of the Western Hockey League, where he had 96 points (48 goals, 48 assists) last season. The Thrashers project him as a power winger in the NHL.

It might not be long before the 17-year-old is indeed playing alongside Kovalchuk.

“That is our belief, that if he continues to get stronger in the next eight or 10 weeks, he has a very good chance to be with us.”

Is that a lot of pressure?

“There is a little bit of pressure, but I like to embrace that pressure,” said Kane, who is 6-foot-1, 176 pounds. “I use it as a positive. … I’m definitely expecting to make the team. I go into any camp with that goal. I think if I continue to get bigger and get better as a player, I can do it.”

Waddell said Kane will attend the Thrashers’ developmental camp in July. He has already added three pounds of muscle to a body that measured at 7 percent body fat.

Kane is known for his physical play — maybe not a coincidence since he is named after the boxer, and Atlanta resident, Evander Holyfield.

“My dad and grandfather really like Evander,” Kane said. “There were debates between my mom and dad. My dad got his way. It turns out that I really like the name.”

Waddell told the Journal-Constitution last month that his pick would likely be one of five players — John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matthew Duchene, Brayden Schenn or Kane. All but Hedman are forwards, a major need for the Thrashers. Tavares went first overall to the New York Islanders, followed by Hedman to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Duchene to the Colorado Avalanche.

That left Kane and the Thrashers jumped at selecting him.

“We had a real good feeling he would be there,” Waddell said. “We spent a lot of time with him. He’s a great kid.”

Waddell said he was approached with many trade offers for the No. 4 pick but “it didn’t make sense to get a 30-year-old player for a 17-year-old player. We have a very good core of good young players.”

The selection was met by cheers at one draft party.

“It was expected, but it’s still good to see,” said Thrashers fan Wayne Melnick. “He projects as a great power forward. You’ve got to appreciate someone who’s the right pick and wants to come to Atlanta.”

Kane led the WHL in power-play goals (23), was second in goals (48) and game-winning goals (10) and was fourth in points last season. He led Vancouver in goals and was second in points and led the Giants to the WHL Western Conference finals. He had a plus/minus rating of plus-51.

Kane was also a member of Canada’s gold-medal team in the 2009 World Junior Championships.