From London to Chicago


Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

If you’re ever looking for an example of how the Ontario Hockey League can segue a player to the NHL, look no further than Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. The former London Knight has earned a number of national and league honors, has a Stanley Cup championship under his belt and is now playing overseas in Switzerland until the NHL lockout breaks – and he still hasn’t even hit his 24th birthday.

Patrick Kane was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and began his hockey career at a very young age. After spending time locally with the Cazenovia Chiefs, West Seneca Wings, Buffalo Regals and Depew Saints, he moved to Michigan to play for three seasons with the Midwest Elite Hockey League.

By 2004 – when he was just 16 – Kane was drafted by the London Knights in the OHL midget draft and played for the US National Team Development Program and put up two consecutive 30+ point seasons.

Kane went on to make his OHL debut September 22, 2006; it was on that day he earned his first OHL point – a secondary assist on a goal by Robbie Drummond – and also scored his first OHL goal, at 19:33 of the first period en route to a 6-3 Knights win over the Saginaw Spirit. (He also got his first OHL penalty that game.)

His second game in the league, a 6-5 victory over Owen Sound, would include a goal and two assists for the young forward. The next game? Three assists. By the end of September, the Knights’ season was just three games in, but Kane already had eight points.

In his first ten games in the Ontario Hockey League, Kane scored nine goals and 15 assists. By the end of the regular season, he tallied an incredible 145 points – scoring 62 goals and 83 assists – and earned the league scoring title. He also captured OHL Rookie of the Year, CHL Rookie of the Year, was named to the Western Conference All-Star Team and was runner up for the league MVP honors.

Kane played on a line with other future NHLers Sam Gagner and Sergei Kostitsyn; together, they combined for 394 points that season, after which the Knights went to the postseason and were eventually eliminated by the Plymouth Whalers.

That extremely productive season would pay off for Kane; it would not only be his first in the league, but also his last, as he was selected first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Knights teammate Gagner went to the Edmonton Oilers with the sixth overall pick. (Kostitsyn had already been drafted in 2005).

Just over a month after being drafted, Kane signed a three-year entry level contract with the Blackhawks and made his NHL debut on October 4 at the age of 18. He had his first point in his second game – an assist – and scored his first career NHL goal against Jose Theodore on October 19.

That year, Kane played in all 82 games and scored 21 goals and 51 assists, leading all rookies in scoring and capturing the Calder Trophy, awarded to the league’s best rookie player. He also won bronze with Team USA at the World Juniors in 2007.

The ‘sophomore slump’ didn’t exist for the young player, as he put up similar numbers in his second year: 25 goals and 45 assists in 80 games. Kane would also play in his first of three NHL All-Star Games that year, appearing again in 2011 and 2012.

He’d score an NHL career-high 88 points in his third season in the league, with 30 goals and 58 assists. This was also the season that Kane would travel as part of Team USA to the Winter Olympics, where he won a silver medal. As the Chicago Blackhawks went to the playoffs and beyond, Kane scored 28 points in 22 post-season games, including the game-winning overtime goal to win the Stanley Cup over the Philadelphia Flyers on June 9.

The 2010-11 season saw Kane notch 73 points in as many games, and last season, he had 66 points in 82 games for five consecutive 20+ goal seasons. He’s just one game shy of 400 NHL games in his career and has 369 points and 1175 shots in his NHL career.

With the lockout, Kane has recently announced his decision to take his talents overseas, joining EHC Biel of the Swiss National League.