(News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan is profiling U.S. athletes leading up to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, which begin Feb. 7)
Kane, the pride of South Buffalo, won two Stanley Cups before the age of 25. He scored the game-winning goal for Chicago in the 2010 Cup finals. Kane, the top overall pick in the 2007 entry draft, won the Conn Smythe last year as the most valuable player in the Cup finals. Four years ago, he won a silver medal with the U.S. team in Vancouver.
Now he's back for another shot at gold in Russia, a more complete and dangerous player than he was four years ago. Kane is renowned for his speed, lightning quick hands and stickhandling. He has also matured as a person and player. During last season's lockout, he played in Switzerland and rededicated himself to his sport. Kane, who turned 25 in November, is better defensively, a more patient and creative offensive player. He is also expected to be more of a leader for the American squad.
Kane is currently fourth in the NHL in scoring with 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists), which puts him on pace to equal his career high of 88 points, set in 2009-10. He had three goals and two assists for the U.S. during its stirring run to the Olympic final in 2010. He'll be reunited with 12 of his American teammates from Vancouver, including Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.
Ed Olczyk, an NBC analyst who played and coached in the NHL, called Kane "the best American player in the game right now." If Kane performs to that level in Sochi and wins gold, it might be time to anoint him as the greatest athlete ever to come out of the Buffalo area.