My esteemed colleague Adam ‘Proteau Type’ Proteau recently wondered why Jonathan Toews wasn’t getting consideration in the “best player in the world” discussion. He makes a fair point. But what about Toews’ running mate in Chicago?
Patrick Kane has been a man possessed pretty much since he scored that hat trick to knock L.A. out of the Western Conference final last year. His 46 points rank one behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead this season and he has 16 points in nine games this month.
Check out the sick backhand he roofed over Nashville’s Carter Hutton Tuesday night:
What we’re witnessing here is not a simple hot streak. It’s Kane’s elevation from star and one of the top 20 players in the world to superstar, a top-five guy whose name belongs in the same sentence as Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Toews. It’s an elite player at 25 who, let’s remember, was always supposed to be this elite. That’s why he was taken first overall in the 2007 draft.
I can’t help but wonder if the wizard behind the curtain, the primary reason for the spike in Kane’s play, is skills-oriented trainer Darryl Belfry, who studies video of players and works with them to hone minute details of their games. In Kane’s case, one example is Belfry helping him learn to put himself in high-percentage shooting positions more often. Two other players Belfry has famously worked with: Crosby and John Tavares. So that places Belfry clients first, second and fifth in league scoring. Wow.
Is Kane as complete a player as a Crosby? No, not yet. But you don’t always have to be a two-way monster to be an elite force in this game. Sometimes, the best defense is a strong offense. That’s why Kane has forced himself into the Hart Trophy debate.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin