Top 2007 draft picks lead finalists

Patrick Kane is soaking it all up
on this trip to the Stanley Cup finals as a 21-year-old in only his third NHL
season. The Chicago Blackhawks star doesn’t seem nervous on the game’s biggest
stage and states he has no trouble sleeping.

“I’ve said it before I don’t really
get too many butterflies as far as hockey goes,” Kane said. “You get excited
thinking about it. You might toss and turn a bit, but I’ve never really had a
problem sleeping. I’m too young for that.”

In the chase for the Stanley Cup,
Kane and company face the Philadelphia Flyers. There might quite a bit of miles
separating the two cities but both franchises are trying to end long
championship droughts. The Blackhawks are searching for their first title since
the days of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita in 1961. The Flyers are looking for
their first championship since the Broad Street Bullies socked their way to the
second of back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1975.

Chicago’s appearance in the finals
is its first since 1992. Kane barely remembers what he was doing in those days.

“I was three and a half years old,”
Kane said. “I was either getting ready for preschool or playing mini-sticks
with my mom and dad on the rug.”

Kane came to the Blackhawks after a
ping-pong ball took a lucky bounce as Chicago won the lottery and moved ahead
of the Flyers — who had the worst record that season — to get the number one
pick in 2007. Kane was an easy choice for the Blackhawks and became rookie of
the year, while the Flyers took James van Riemsdyk with the second pick. Now
both are in the Stanley Cup finals facing each other. Oddly enough both are
also close friends who dined together this season when the Blackhawks visited
Philly for their only meeting with the Flyers. Kane looks upon facing his
friend as a treat.

“It seems like it’s almost worked
out good for both teams,” Kane said. “They’re here three years later. I’m here
three years later, our team is, and that’s the most important thing for this

Kane quickly emerged as a star, a
consistent scoring threat with his speed and handling skills. Van Riemsdyk took
a different route, heading off to college first and then signing with the
Flyers a little more than a year ago.

Arguably the biggest difference between
the two is their impact on their respective cities. While van Riemsdyk is
relatively unknown, Kane has turned a BlackHawks team that played in front of a
half-empty stadium into one of the hottest tickets in the Illinois area. A huge
part of Kane’s popularity is his partnership with Canadian talent 22 year-old
Jonathan Toews. To no surprise van Riemsdyk looks up to Kane.

“We were both put in different
situations and we were in different stages of our hockey development and, you
know, I did what I thought was best for me to be a better player,” van Riemsdyk
said. “He was obviously ready to make that jump right after the draft. He’s
done a good job for himself.”

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