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NHL Draft notebook: Sabres’ Evander Kane sees Vegas as just another big city on NHL landscape

While in Las Vegas, Evander Kane once held stacks of $100s to his ear as a mock phone. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman could have done the same thing this week with $500 million.

The NHL has named Sin City as the league’s 31st franchise while collecting a huge expansion fee, and the puck is set to drop in 2017-18. Kane and Vegas are forever connected by his Twitter and Instagram photos of the money phone and his “money pushups” that caused a stir during his days with the Winnipeg Jets. So after the Buffalo Sabres winger took part in an NHL Prospects Clinic on Thursday, it was natural to see what he thought of the NHL’s expansion.

“A lot of people think it’s going to be good for the league or else they wouldn’t have gotten a team,” Kane said in HarborCenter. “I think it’s going to be interesting having a professional sports team in Vegas. Hopefully, it will do well.”

The Nevada hub is one of the burgeoning cities in the United States, but most of the focus is on the famed Las Vegas Strip. The home of the new team, T-Mobile Arena, opened in April behind the New York-New York casino.

“I’m not too familiar with the rest of Vegas, I won’t lie to you on that,” Kane said. “But it’s a big city with a lot of surrounding areas and suburbs. I’m sure guys will be able to live out there.”

As for visiting teams, how much will the distractions impact their play on the ice?

“It’s probably going to be business as usual, really,” Kane said. “There’s a lot of fun cities throughout the league. New York, L.A, I don’t really see it being that much different than those types of cities.”

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Plenty of folks from Toronto will be on hand to cheer the Maple Leafs when they make the first pick in the first round of the NHL Draft Friday night in First Niagara Center.

“I’m going to assume there’ll be a lot here,” Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said. “I’ve been here for 2ß years, and I worked in Ottawa for six years and I’ve been around for 24 years. I don’t know why history would change. It’s a very passionate fan base that they have, and they like to get around and be vocal about it. “I can’t imagine that it will change here on draft day.”

Only about 5,000 tickets reached Sabres season-ticket holders and the general public. Everyone else is invited to a free NHL Draft FanFest at Canalside. The party runs from 4 to 10 p.m., and televised coverage of the first round on two large screens begins at 7 p.m.

Sabres Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek will be on hand from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Gilbert Perreault also is in town. The event will feature other Sabres and alumni, giveaways, interactive games, live music, food trucks and a children’s zone.

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The Maple Leafs are expected to make center Auston Matthews the top pick. Finnish winger Patrik Laine has previously said he should be No. 1, and he hasn’t given up on the thought.

“Of course, I want to believe that I can go No. 1,” Laine said. “You never know. I’m happy with whatever the result is. Whether I’m 120th or the second or the first, I’m going to be happy.”

Winnipeg is scheduled to select second. Laine believes they’d get the player with the most potential. While Matthews is an all-around talent, Laine is the draft’s top sniper. He totaled 41 goals in 81 games played in the Swedish elite league, the world championships and the world juniors.

“I just think I have the best ability to become someday the best player in the NHL,” Laine said at the NHL Scouting Combine. “I think other top guys are good at everything, and they don’t have that kind of one thing that they are very good at, and I think I have that.

“I think I have a better shot and ability to score goals, and I think I’m more physical than” Matthews.

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Matthews, Laine and fellow prospects Matthew Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois joined Kane in skating with dozen of youngsters at the HarborCenter clinic.

“It’s definitely pretty humbling to come back and skate with these little kids and just see their faces and see how excited they are,” Matthews said. “That made it a lot of fun for everybody.”

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When Logan Brown was a kid, the seventh-ranked prospect in North America played on a team in St. Louis with Tkachuk (No. 2), Clayton Keller (No. 9) and Luke Kunin (No. 11). All four are expected to go in the first round.

Said Brown: “That’s more than some countries.”

email: mharrington@buffnews.com and jvogl@buffnews.com