This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has watched the Islanders play this season. But 3rd year budding superstar John Tavares has been selected to play in his first NHL All-Star Game which will take place in Ottawa on January 29th. Since each team in the league must send a representative to Ottawa, it was certainly a no-brainer that the man representing the Islanders would be Tavares.
So far this season Tavares is leading the Islanders in scoring with 14 goals and 25 assists in 40 games played. He’s currently tied for 22nd in the NHL with his 39pts and if he can keep up his hot hand, he may finish the year around the Top 10.
For Islanders fans, there has not been much to get excited about the last several seasons. This was “supposed” to be the year the Islanders finally made a push for a playoff spot. Sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference and 10 points out of the final playoff spot, that goal of the playoffs appears to be a large mountain to climb. What HAS put a smile on the faces of Islanders faithful, has been the exceptional play of their 3rd year center. This year, the improvement to Tavares’ game has been easily noticeable. Each game he does something special that reminds us all why he was the first overall pick three years ago. When he first entered the league, the knack on Tavares was his skating. Three years later, he has improved his skating to the point where he regularly skates past defenders with ease. His rookie season, Tavares always seemed to be “soft” on his skates, getting knocked down, and going to the ice very easily. This year, the 6-foot 206 pound center is probably the strongest Islander on the puck, virtually impossible to knock off down low or along the boards.
Yet the strongest part of Tavares’ game is hands-down his vision. I’d be willing to put Tavares in the same class as Patrick Kane, Henrik Sedin and Claude Giroux when it comes to his ability to set up his teammates. There is a reason Matt Moulson has two straight 30 goal seasons and currently leads the Isles with 20 tallies already this season. Watching him make no-look passes, behind the back passes, and sometimes in between his legs passes right on the sticks of his teammates has been a thing of beauty.
All of this has been three years in the making and it is a great joy to watch a superstar in the making. It will be exciting to watch what he can do when playing with some of the league’s top players in just a few weeks. So congratulations to John Tavares on his first All-Star Game appearance, and here’s hoping to many, many more!