Patrick Kane selected US alternate captain

calmstorm / Flickr

A year after Patrick Kane's career appeared in jeopardy because of a sexual assault claim, the Chicago Blackhawks star was named one of the alternate captains for the United States for the World Cup of Hockey.

"It's a huge honor for sure," Kane said. "It's one of those things I don't know if I was expecting to receive that, but at the same time, I still think it's a responsibility I can handle and hopefully take somewhat of a leadership role and take charge."

The sexual assault case in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, was dropped Nov. 5 for what the prosecutor said was a clear lack of evidence, and Kane quickly put the off-ice troubles aside. He had an early 26-game points streak and became the first American-born player to win the Art Ross (top scorer) and Hart (most valuable player) trophies.

"Sometimes you look back, it's almost like a blur, it went by so quick," he said. "It didn't seem like it at the time but it was a really fun year."

He had 106 points (46 goals, 60 assists) to become the first player to crack the 100-point mark in four seasons, and finished 17 points ahead of runner-up Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars.

"He was on a roll early, got his confidence going and never looked back," said David Backes, the Boston center and U.S. teammate.

Along the way Kane might have grown up as well. The incident in Buffalo was the latest of several brushes with the law in his career.

"I'm 27 years old. I'm going to be 28 later this year; you want to maximize your potential," he said. "You want to get all you can out of your prime while you're still young, maybe advance that prime into your later years too. That's where my thinking is now."

U.S. and Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella knew Kane's reputation but did not know him before the Americans' training camp opened Monday in the Ohio city.

"He has matured. We all see that," the coach said. "A lot of things have gone on with him obviously. Just talking to with him one-on-one here in the past couple of days you can see the maturity."

That's why Kane was named an alternate captain, along with the Minnesota Wild's Ryan Suter, to captain Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks.

"I want (Kane) to take more responsibility now," Tortorella said. "He's ready for more responsibility as a leader of a U.S. team where before it was 'Kaner, go play' and he's really good at it. I think he's ready for more responsibility and I'm ready to give it to him because he deserves it."

The game has always come easy for Kane, who has won Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks in 2010, 13 and '15 and a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. But last season he went to a different level.

"He was the best player in the league last year," Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty said. "Not many people can play the game the way he does. He's special."

He, Kane and Pavelski form the top line for the U.S. and they need to come through for any chance of winning the eight-team tournament. The U.S plays World Cup favorite Canada in an exhibition games Friday in Columbus and Saturday in Ottawa.

The focus will be on Kane but this time for a good reason.

"I sometimes catch myself over the summer saying, 'OK, you did it once but can you do it again? Can you prove yourself again?' " Kane said. "It gave me a little bit of motivation over the summer, a lot of motivation. I want to get back to the level, stay there and do it as long as I can. It's fun when you're producing like that on the ice. You feel awesome."