DULUTH, Ga. Tell Evander Kane that he lacks the size to play next season for the Atlanta Thrashers, and the 18-year-old doesn't exactly agree.
"I worked hard to get bigger coming into my draft year, and I think it was a benefit when I played last year," Kane said. "I'm just really excited about playing for the Thrashers, and I'm eager to get down there and get going."
The Thrashers chose Kane with the No. 4 overall pick of the NHL entry draft tonight.
Named by his father for Atlanta-based boxer Evander Holyfield, Kane intends to make the Thrashers' roster out of training camp by adding more bulk to his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame.
He disagrees with some NHL scouts and television analysts that he needs a year in the minor leagues before he will be ready.
"I've worked hard the last few years to get to this point," Kane said. "I can't see that being a roadblock or anything."
Atlanta can use an adept passer to pair with captain Ilya Kovalchuk, whose 296 goals since the Thrashers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001 are most in the NHL.
Kane scored 48 goals, second-best in the WHL, for the Vancouver Giants. In 61 games, Kane had 48 assists and led the WHL with 23 power play goals. His 10 game-winning goals ranked second.
"He's got plenty of time to make it happen," general manager Don Waddell. "We like everything about this kid. He's got a tremendous future ahead of him, and he should only make us better moving the puck."
Despite winning 12 of their last 18 games, Atlanta missed the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years. The Thrashers had just 76 points to finish fourth-worst overall and third-worst in the Eastern Conference under first-year coach John Anderson.
But Waddell still considers his team stocked with young talent. Last year's No. 3 overall pick, Zach Bogosian, missed 33 games last season with a broken leg, but the 18-year-old still led all rookie defensemen with nine goals.
Kovalchuk and goaltender Kari Lehtonen are both 26. Defenseman Tobias Enstrom is 25.
Center Bryan Little, drafted No. 12 overall in 2006, had 31 goals and 20 assists in his first full NHL season.
Colby Armstrong, 26, whom Atlanta acquired in the deal that sent Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh at the 2008 trade deadline, hopes to build on a career-best 22 goals.
The Thrashers have seven picks remaining, including two in the second round.
Kane grew up in Vancouver. He doesn't know much about Atlanta or his new teammates, but that will change soon enough.
"It's a hockey club that's clearly up and coming," Kane said. "This is a dream come true for me, and I hope one day the Thrashers' fans will agree."