Kane put on about 15 pounds during the off-season, weighing 178 at training camp, and teammates noticed his improved power. "He's stronger and a better skater this year than he was [in 2008-09]," defenseman Brian Campbell says. "His strength in getting away from guys is better."
Adds third-line winger Kris Versteeg, "His game has become more well-rounded. Last year you never quite knew if he was going to get his butt back, but he definitely does it now. He knows what it takes to be good at both ends."
The new and improved Kane enjoyed a breakout performance at the Olympics in February, where he was the youngest member of Team USA. He skated confidently into Vancouver, scored two goals in the 6-1 semifinal win over Finland and assisted on Zach Parise's tying goal in the waning seconds of the gold medal match against Canada.
Before each Olympic game he would skate to the bench during warmups, lay his gloves along the dasher boards and squirt water on his face. From the bench Team USA equipment manager Derek Settlemyre, whose day job is with the Flyers, would ask him, "You ready, big boy?"
Looking up with a grin as he slid on his gloves, Kane would answer, "Showtime!"
Though undersized, Kane never seems to get caught with his head down or fall victim to a crushing check. "He's greasy," says Brian Burke, G.M. of the Maple Leafs and of Team USA. "Even when he's in the corner, he manages to sidestep most of the impact when guys go to hit him. [But] I think his biggest gift is that he has no panic threshold at all with the puck. Most guys, when a player from the opposing team gets close to him, they think, O.K., I've got to do something now. This kid waits until he can feel their breath on his neck, and then he makes a move."
Kane probably can't feel much on his neck at the moment, what with the mullet hanging in the way. He jokes that now that his hairstyle appears to have been a successful championship talisman, "I might have to keep it for the summer. I could grow it out to a full Jagr, long enough to cover the name on the back [of my jersey]."
Mullet or not, Kane's play—if not his hair—has been a cut above the rest.