Cam Tucker

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 22: Patrick Kane #88 of the United States looks on in the second period against Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game on Day 15 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 22, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Patrick Kane named an alternate captain for Team USA

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) A year after Patrick Kane‘s career appeared in jeopardy because of a sexual assault claim, the Chicago Blackhawks star was named one of the alternate captains for the United States for the World Cup of Hockey.

“It’s a huge honor for sure,” Kane said. “It’s one of those things I don’t know if I was expecting to receive that, but at the same time, I still think it’s a responsibility I can handle and hopefully take somewhat of a leadership role and take charge.”

The sexual assault case in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, was dropped Nov. 5 for what the prosecutor said was a clear lack of evidence, and Kane quickly put the off-ice troubles aside. He had an early 26-game points streak and became the first American-born player to win the Art Ross (top scorer) and Hart (most valuable player) trophies.

“Sometimes you look back, it’s almost like a blur, it went by so quick,” he said. “It didn’t seem like it at the time but it was a really fun year.”

He had 106 points (46 goals, 60 assists) to become the first player to crack the 100-point mark in four seasons, and finished 17 points ahead of runner-up Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.

“He was on a roll early, got his confidence going and never looked back,” said David Backes, the Boston center and U.S. teammate.

Along the way Kane might have grown up as well. The incident in Buffalo was the latest of several brushes with the law in his career.

“I’m 27 years old. I’m going to be 28 later this year; you want to maximize your potential,” he said. “You want to get all you can out of your prime while you’re still young, maybe advance that prime into your later years too. That’s where my thinking is now.”

U.S. and Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella knew Kane’s reputation but did not know him before the Americans’ training camp opened Monday in the Ohio city.

“He has matured. We all see that,” the coach said. “A lot of things have gone on with him obviously. Just talking to with him one-on-one here in the past couple of days you can see the maturity.”

That’s why Kane was named an alternate captain, along with the Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter, to captain Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks.

“I want (Kane) to take more responsibility now,” Tortorella said. “He’s ready for more responsibility as a leader of a U.S. team where before it was `Kaner, go play’ and he’s really good at it. I think he’s ready for more responsibility and I’m ready to give it to him because he deserves it.”

The game has always come easy for Kane, who has won Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks in 2010, 13 and ’15 and a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. But last season he went to a different level.

“He was the best player in the league last year,” Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty said. “Not many people can play the game the way he does. He’s special.”

He, Kane and Pavelski form the top line for the U.S. and they need to come through for any chance of winning the eight-team tournament. The U.S plays World Cup favorite Canada in an exhibition games Friday in Columbus and Saturday in Ottawa.

The focus will be on Kane but this time for a good reason.

“I sometimes catch myself over the summer saying, `OK, you did it once but can you do it again? Can you prove yourself again?’ ” Kane said. “It gave me a little bit of motivation over the summer, a lot of motivation. I want to get back to the level, stay there and do it as long as I can. It’s fun when you’re producing like that on the ice. You feel awesome.”

Former first-round pick Zach Boychuk signs PTO with Coyotes

Zach Boychuk
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Another day, another professional tryout signing in the National Hockey League, as training camps approach.

James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reported on Twitter that former Carolina Hurricanes first-round pick Zach Boychuk has signed a PTO with the Arizona Coyotes.

The Hurricanes selected Boychuk with the 14th overall pick in 2008.

Now 26 years old, he has yet to stick at the NHL level for a full season, despite some decent production in the minors, including a 74-point season with the Charlotte Checkers in 2013-14.

In his time with Carolina, Boychuk played 127 NHL games, with 12 goals and 30 points.

Connor McDavid named captain of Team North America

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 13:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his first career NHL goal against the Dallas Stars in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 13, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The news shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but Connor McDavid has been named as the captain of Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.

Both head coach Todd McLellan and McDavid had been asked about the possibility of the young phenom wearing the ‘C’ for the youthful squad, and both were careful not to tip their hands.

On Thursday, the official announcement was made just over an hour before McDavid and Team North America played Team Europe in a pre-tournament exhibition game.

Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier and Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad were named alternate captains.

“On a team full of future NHL captains, we have a strong leadership group on Team North America,” said McLellan in a statement.

“In particular, these three players — Connor, Sean and Aaron — have identified themselves in camp as key leaders for our team. They will be assisted by their teammates to ensure the full group is working together towards our goal of having success in the World Cup of Hockey.”

Now, will McDavid be named captain of the Edmonton Oilers? We’ll soon find out.

Related:

Wearing the ‘C’ for Team North America could be a ‘good trial run,’ says McDavid

Patrik Laine: ‘I was just bad today’

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 21: Patrik Laine #29 of Finland looks on against Russia at Ice Palace on May 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. Finland defeated Russia 3-1.(Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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Patrik Laine has never lacked confidence.

The second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft has compared himself to Alex Ovechkin, saying he could be like the Capitals’ prolific scorer in five years. And while it was predicted — accurately in the end — that Auston Matthews would go No. 1 overall, Laine still had his sights set on being the top selection because of how he felt about his own game.

At the age of 18, after being named World Hockey Championship MVP in the spring, he was named to Finland’s World Cup team. After scoring seven goals and 13 points in the 2016 world juniors for Finland, going No. 2 overall to the Winnipeg Jets and the excitement about what he can do for that franchise, with its up-and-coming talent, Laine has garnered some big expectations heading into the 2016-17 NHL season.

But he was also brutally honest about his performance in Finland’s World Cup pre-tournament game with Sweden on Thursday.

Finland scored a 3-2 win in overtime. But, at least based on the numbers from the NHL’s website, Laine failed to register a shot on goal in almost 15 minutes of ice time. He also played 6:15 on the power play.

He didn’t hold back when asked his assessment of his play.

“I’m not satisfied with my game,” he told Joe McDonald of ESPN. “Saturday, we have a new game and (I) have to be better.

“I was too slow on the ice and I couldn’t find my linemates and I was not so good on the power play. I was just bad today.”

It’s worth noting, too, that Laine had minor knee surgery in the offseason.

Jets coach Paul Maurice said toward the end of August that Laine has been training in full for some time now.

But it’s possible that there may be some rust in his overall game right now.

The good news for Laine and Team Finland: The tournament doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 17. So he has more than a week to figure his game out.

Report: Panthers sign former Wild forward Fontaine to PTO

Steve Ott, Justin Fontaine
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The Florida Panthers have brought in another free agent on a professional tryout.

After it was reported Thursday that defenseman Adam Pardy would be given a tryout, the Panthers are now bringing former Minnesota Wild forward Justin Fontaine to training camp on a PTO, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.

Fontaine, 28, spent the last three seasons with the Wild, scoring five goals and 16 points in 60 games last season. His career high in points is 31 from the 2014-15 campaign and 13 goals from his rookie year.

The Panthers have been busy signing their core group of young forwards to long-term contracts, but Fontaine may be able to add depth up front if he shows well in training camp.

Last season, Fontaine went through his share of difficulties.

He was a healthy scratch — former Wild coach Mike Yeo sent him to the press box and challenged him to be more consistent in his play — after having been previously forced from the lineup with a sprained left MCL.