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Blackhawks did right by Patrick Kane early, but need to reload for second act

EDMONTON, Alberta — When a team lucks into drafting a star such as Patrick Kane, as the Blackhawks did in 2007, the prize comes with an unspoken ultimatum to turn that fortuitous moment into a trophy.

The Hawks have squandered some of Kane’s precious prime last season and this one, but no one can accuse them of wasting the gift overall.

Kane knows that, too. The Hawks were slotted fifth in the lottery in 2007 and cashed in on the 1-in-12 shot of winning it. It is the only time they have picked first. Kane easily could have ended up with an incompetent franchise, and it would have been an emptier career.

‘‘I feel very, very fortunate that I landed in Chicago,’’ he said after the Hawks’ morning skate Tuesday at Rogers Place. ‘‘As a young kid at the time, you don’t really think about it when you’re getting drafted, but there’s some great pieces in place. . . .

Patrick Kane went first overall in 2007. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

‘‘When you’re going through the draft, you’re just kind of wanting to get drafted as high as possible. But it was very lucky and fortunate I landed in Chicago.’’

That gratitude surely is heightened when he sees what’s happening with the Oilers, who are a hair above .500 during the dazzling career of Connor McDavid.

McDavid is second only to Kane in points since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2015 and has been to the playoffs once. He has scored 118 goals, most of them irrelevant. Unless he somehow forces his way out, his $100 million contract will keep him with the Oilers through 2025-26.

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Kane was a bounce away from being in the same mess. There were rumors the Coyotes wanted to trade into the No. 1 spot the year Kane was drafted. The Oilers had the same lottery odds as the Hawks and wound up picking sixth.

There’s no doubt Kane would have had a prodigious and profitable run regardless, but it would have been more
hollow.

‘‘I think it’s all about winning, right?’’ he said. ‘‘I’m happy I’ve been a part of three Cups, for sure.’’

In Year 4 for McDavid, when Kane already had a Stanley Cup, the Oilers have fired their coach and general manager and aren’t going anywhere. They entered their game against the Hawks in sixth place in the Pacific
Division.

That futility isn’t McDavid’s fault. He’s the highest-paid player in the league, and he’s worth it. He was second in the NHL in goals (31) and points (76) entering play Tuesday and has had a hand in 51 percent of the Oilers’ goals.

Kane never has been asked to carry a load like that. He always has had Jonathan Toews, and there has been additional firepower from players such as Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Artemi Panarin. In 12 seasons with the Hawks, Kane has played with a 30-goal scorer nine times. He has factored into 45.5 percent of the team’s goals this season, but it has been 32 percent for his career.

And now it’s a toss-up as far which star has greater cause for optimism about capturing a Stanley Cup in the near future, even though McDavid is eight years younger at 22.

The Hawks maxed out their draft jackpot by loading up around Kane, but they’ve caught another break: He’s not done. He has bought them time to double-up because he has shown no signs of decline as he tracks
toward career highs in goals and points. Three titles won’t seem like enough if he’s good for two decades.

The Hawks have been handed another winning lottery ticket, and there needs to be urgency to get it right while Kane is still at this level. The Oilers are a punch line for wasting the early years of McDavid’s career, and the Hawks will start catching some of that if they don’t make good use of Kane’s later years.