After missing more than nine months due to last year’s season-ending left shoulder surgery, Evander Kane was excited to be back on the ice this season.
Add to that a fresh start in Buffalo and Kane was primed to begin the 2015-16 season.
“Let’s just put it this way, I think I’m definitely excited to have a fresh start and looking forward to moving on to bigger and better things here in Buffalo,” Kane said during his introductory news conference.
Then came the hit on October 24th, when he took a check along the boards from New Jersey Devils defenseman David Schlemko.
Kane took the injury in stride, tweeting immediately after the game “Will be back ASAP.” Unfortunately for the Sabres, the MCL injury kept him out of the lineup for nearly a month. He returned to the lineup on November 19th against the St. Louis Blues and has been making an impact ever since. He has tallied four goals and two assists in his last four games, on his way to a projected 30 goal season, despite missing four weeks.
It should come as no surprise that Kane continues to “fight” through all of his issues (both on and off ice). His parents named him after the famed American boxer Evander Holyfield. His father was an amateur boxer as well as a hockey player, and he put Kane on skates at the age of three.
Kane’s father instructed him in his early years and initially wanted to keep him out of organized hockey. It wasn’t until Kane turned eight that his father relented and allowed him to play youth hockey.
“My dad taught me the fundamentals of what it takes — he really had a big part to do with why I’m a good hockey player.”
At the age of fourteen, Kane recorded 140 points in 66 games with the bantam North Shore Winter Club. At the age of seventeen, Kane began his Junior career playing for the Vancouver Giants scoring his first goal on March 25, 2007 (a game-tying goal).
He continued to have multiple successful seasons with the Giants, attaining a season high of 48 goals. During his amateur career, Kane also earned a spot as a replacement on Team Canada for the 2009 World Junior Championships, returning home with a gold medal.
After Juniors, Kane was selected fourth overall by the Atlanta Thrashers and began his professional career at the start of 2009 NHL season. His six-year career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets had been marked by multiple peaks and valleys.
Although suffering several minor injuries during his first years in the NHL, he was able to notch a 30 goal season (2011-2012) and multiple nineteen goal seasons. As some of the off-ice issues began to build, the relationship between Kane and the Winnipeg Jets began to suffer, ending up with the trade to Buffalo in February.
As Kane mentioned multiple times in his first interview with the Buffalo media, he’s ready for the “fresh start.” Unfortunately, this new start began in December, a little later in the season than expected.
His shorthanded goal in the victory over the Arizona Coyotes last Friday night was pure Kane. After stealing the puck at the Sabres blue-line, Kane sped the length of the ice and rifled a wrist shot, stick side, top shelf.
It’s this type of play that’s going to be needed as the season progresses as injuries to other key players begin to pile up. The loss of Tyler Ennis has already impacted the Sabres’ performance as witnessed on this recent west coast road trip. Kane will need to continue to take advantage of his natural speed and help the Sabres improve in setting up in the offensive zone.
Kane appears to have found his comfort zone on a line with Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart. His play has been more physical on the forecheck and he continues to send plenty of pucks at the net. Three straight multi-point games only points to a sign of things to come for the power forward.
“We’re getting on teams’ defense and we’re staying on the puck,” Kane said. “We’re battling to create turnovers and I think there’s an urgency and a hunger to put pucks away.”
As long as the 24-year-old can stay healthy, he will continue to add that level of excitement to this young Sabres team.