By @MichaelCaples –
He may just be the most successful alumnus of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
Patrick Kane, the reigning NHL scoring leader and three-time Stanley Cup champion, joined a USA Hockey teleconference call with members of the media today to talk about his two-year stay (2004-06) in Michigan with the NTDP to help celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary.
“For me, at that age, to go into a program like that at 15, 16 years old, at that time in my career, I was very undersized,” said Kane, who also spent one year with Honeybaked before making the jump to the NTDP. “I think it was great for me because there is so much focus on, obviously what you’re doing on the ice, and maybe just as much focus of what you’re doing off the ice – whether it’s learning from different athletes or what you’re doing in the workout room and every day, the focus that your coach wants you to have at what you’re doing at school, too.”
Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, raved about the coaching staff and the players he trained with during his time in Ann Arbor.
“I was lucky and fortunate enough to play for John Hynes at that time, played with some great players like Erik Johnson and Peter Mueller, Phil Kessel and Jack Johnson – I had a really great time there,” Kane said. “I think, looking back, it couldn’t have worked out any better for me to go to that program for two years – become more mature in my body and learn a lot about how the game should be played to get yourself to the next level. I was very fortunate to be selected to the program there, and I think it had a huge impact on my development.”
The 28-year-old native of Buffalo, N.Y., said that the highlight of his NTDP experience was winning the tournament the two-year training program builds towards – the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. The U18 Worlds serve as the highlighted final goal for each NTDP team as they enter the program.
“It was probably winning the Under-18 gold medal there,” Kane said when asked for his favorite moment. “I think when you’re at the program, there’s kind of two big things you’re gearing up for – the Under-17 World Challenge when you’re on the U17 Team and then after that, you’re playing against colleges and players that are older than you to prepare yourself that next tournament, the Under-18 World Championship. That’s something we really geared up to for a couple years, and to go in there in a short tournament and play a handful of games and come out on top was pretty special for all of us.
“That was probably the one thing that stuck out the most.”