by Arch Ecker

     The Topeka RoadRunners had an extra skater show up at practice Monday afternoon at “The Ice” in Cumming, GA, just north of Atlanta where the team has held Training Camp. Technically, he’s young enough to lace ‘em up for the Topeka RoadRunners, but since first round NHL draft pick Evander Kane is under contract with the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, it’s likely he’ll stay behind when the ‘Runners return home Tuesday.

     Kane, who was born in 1991 was selected fourth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Thrashers, after a stellar run with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL). During his major junior career, he won the Memorial Cup with the Giants in 2007, finished as runner-up for the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as WHL rookie of the year in 2008 and was named to the WHL West First All-Star Team in 2009. Kane also set the Giants' franchise record for single-season goals in 2008–09. Internationally, Kane has won gold medals with Team Canada at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and 2009 World Junior Championships. He has also competed in the 2010 IIHF World Championship.

     His appearance at the RoadRunners practice was orchestrated by team owner Don Stone, and was a complete surprise to the players. As the players were getting dressed in the locker room, Kane entered and met each player individually. Once on the ice, he did not disappoint. “It was awesome to watch him and to see how he moves” said veteran Nate Milam. “It was absolutely unreal.”

     Head Coach / GM Scott Langer was pleased with the guest appearance. “He seemed very comfortable out there with players his own age. It was great to see someone the same age as our own players in such top condition and already a season in the NHL.”

    The RoadRunners fly home to Topeka and welcome the Amarillo Bulls to Landon Arena for a pair of exhibition games on Friday and Saturday nights. The regular season begins September 15 in Blaine, MN with the annual NAHL Showcase.