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ESPN Magazine tabs Evander Kane in its ‘NEXT’ feature

There’s a lot to like about Evander Kane.

Of course, it starts with his name. His last name is nice and easy, without all those extraneous syllables to get in the way. Most important is his first name, which was naturally inspired by Mike Tyson’s nemesis Evander Holyfield.

It wouldn’t be enough if it was Kane’s name alone. Instead, the young forward brings some punch with his scoring touch. In 37 games played, he already matched his 12 assists from has season and is only two goals behind the 14 he scored in his rookie year in 2009-10.

Yet it’s his combination of scoring ability, grit and versatility – not to mention his ethnic makeup – that inspired ESPN the Magazine’s EJ Hradek to name Evander Kane in its “NEXT” feature. Here is what Hradek wrote about Kane.

Crosby-like finesse and Cooke-like antagonism often overshadow Kane-like grit, but hockey purists have long embraced the likes of Gordie Howe, Mark Messier and Peter Forsberg — skill guys who scrap. And while no one is ready to anoint Kane the Next Mr. Hockey, he is NEXT for a number of reasons, not least because anything can happen when he’s on the ice. “Evander is one of those unique guys who can play in any situation,” says NHL Network analyst Craig Button, the former Flames GM. “Whether you need a goal or a hit or a defensive play, it’s in his repertoire.” Adds Islanders director of scouting Ken Morrow: “In my reports, I don’t often write ‘total package.’ I’d write it about Kane.”

Kane’s powerful shot and soft touch have him on pace for 26 goals and 50 points this season, and his improved play, along with the success of the guys around him, has Thrashers fans hoping for their team’s first playoff appearance since 2006-07. But Kane’s potential extends beyond the rink. Although he is one of only 18 black players in the NHL, blacks comprise about 61 percent of Atlanta’s population, which means Kane is positioned to reach new fans in a way that hasn’t been possible for a guy like Flames veteran wing Jarome Iginla (as blacks make up only 2 percent of Calgary’s population). The fact that Kane has three black teammates — Dustin Byfuglien, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago last season, Anthony Stewart and Johnny Oduya — gives the Thrashers a distinctive look.

“I’ve thought about having the ability to help bring the game to people who’ve never seen it before,” says Kane, the highest-drafted black player in NHL history. “I want to be a part of that.” He’s already noticing a little hockey fever among Atlantans. “I see more people in our jerseys at the mall and stuff. It’s a start.”

Kane is one of the many reasons why people can’t wait to see what’s ‘next’ for the Atlanta Thrashers.

Sharks name Pavelski captain; Thornton, Couture alternates

Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton
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Joe Pavelski is the new captain of the San Jose Sharks. The club made the announcement today via Twitter.

The former captain, Joe Thornton, will be an alternate captain, along with Logan Couture.

Pavelski, 31, was the Sharks’ leading scorer last season, finishing with 37 goals and 33 assists. He’s also signed through 2018-19, so giving him the ‘C’ makes sense from a long-term stability perspective.

Couture, 26, is also signed through 2018-19, while Thornton, 36, only has two years left on his contract.

The Sharks had four alternate captains (Thornton, Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic) in 2014-15, but no captain.

Related: DeBoer says Sharks will have a captain next season

After PTO, Upshall signs one-year deal with Blues

Florida Panthers v Ottawa Senators
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Scottie Upshall has parlayed his training camp tryout into a contract with St. Louis.

On Monday, the Blues agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the veteran forward, worth $700,000 at the NHL level. The deal comes after Upshall spent all of training camp and the preseason impressing the Blues his speed and skating ability, no small feat for a 31-year-old veteran with over 500 NHL games on his odometer.

But where Upshall fits in the Blues lineup — and within the organization — remains to be seen.

The club has plenty of depth up front and Upshall isn’t coming off a terrific campaign, having scored just eight goals and 15 points in 63 games with Florida last season. That said, he showed enough to be just one of a handful of veterans on PTOs to score a contract.