Evander Kane is sorta on fire right now

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With a 4-2 win over the Devils last night, the Winnipeg Jets improved to 11-11-4 and reached the .500 mark for just the second time this season. Leading the charge was 20-year-old Evander Kane, who scored two goals and was named the game’s first star.

The goals were Kane’s 13th and 14th of the season, moving him into a tie for sixth-most in the NHL (he’s on pace for 46) — needless to say, he appears to be in the midst of a breakout campaign.

Not that he’s resting on his laurels or anything.

“I still feel I can be a lot better,” Kane said following the game.“I want to be one of the best players in the league, a dominant player in this league, and this is just the start of that.”

Kane’s ascendancy is great for two reasons. One, he’s one of the league’s most uniquely talented players. He looks slender — boasting a sleek 6-foot-2, 195 pound frame — but plays a power game, highlighted with a fighting ability honed by his father, Perry, a former amateur boxer (hence the name “Evander” — Kane’s named after Real Deal Holyfield.) He doesn’t fight often, but when he does…well, just ask Matt Cooke. Its part of the physical approach that makes Kane so versatile. He can play up and down the lineup, something he first showcased at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships.

Two, he’s exactly what the organization needs. When the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became Jets, those unfamiliar with the roster took one look and said “this team has no star power.” Which was harsh, but accurate. The two potential stars were captain Andrew Ladd and All-Star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, but Ladd is more of a heart-and-soul guy and the jury was still out on Byfuglien (and still is, to be honest.) In just his third NHL season, Kane looks like he could be a 35-40 goal scorer, something the franchise hasn’t had since the days of Ilya Kovalchuk.

“Wanting the pressure and always being counted on to score… I’ve always wanted that since I was a pee wee hockey player,” he said. “I like having the puck on my stick. I always feel comfortable when the puck is on my stick because I’m confident in myself.

“This being my third year, it’s a big year for me. I wanted to come in here and make a statement… and continue to make a statement.”

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.