SAY THIS FOR Patrick Kane, the 5'9", 160-pound right wing the Blackhawks selected with the first pick in the NHL draft: An oversized chip sits on his undersized shoulders. "When I was younger, agents would talk to the bigger, stronger kids," the Buffalo native, 18, said. "I was kind of left out." Kane's Napoleon complex was in evidence when he walked onstage at Columbus's Nationwide Arena to meet Chicago G.M. Dale Tallon. Eighty of his friends and family members were in the building, but there wasn't an agent in the entourage. "I can speak for myself," says Kane, who plans to negotiate his first NHL contract on his own. "I owe it to myself, because I got here when people didn't think I could."
That feistiness is what Tallon found attractive about Kane, a historic pick for two reasons: He's the NHL's shortest No. 1 pick and half of the first pair of U.S.-born players to go one-two. (The Flyers took winger James vanRiemsdyk of Middle-town, N.J., at No. 2.) Kane had 145 points in 58 games for the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights last season, and he helped Team USA win the bronze medal at the World Junior Championships in January. "Those were mostly 20-year-olds," says Tallon. "But Patrick had the more advanced game." Tallon was further sold on Kane's toughness when he saw him withstand a nasty hit from behind during an OHL playoff game. "We thought he'd broken his neck," the G.M. says. "Instead he got back up, scored three points."
If Kane (left, with vanRiemsdyk and No. 3 pick Kyle Turris) cracks the lineup this year, he could play beside Jonathan Toews, the forward Chicago took third overall last year. ( Toews played at North Dakota last season.) Tallon sees them as a "public face" for a team that has made the playoffs once in 10 years. Kane's first duty was as a public voice: He was asked to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame at Wrigley Field, a job he approached with typical grit. "Guys will tease me about it," he said, "so I have to prove I can sing."