If you’re reading this, chances are you probably are aware of who John Tavares is, but how well do you know his game? How well do you know the impact he is having on the New York Islanders on a day-in, day-out basis? At the end of their recent five-game road trip (3-1-1) in New Jersey, in a span of about eight seconds, his speed allowed him to corral a loose puck, his strength allowed him to muscled his way past Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador and then his soft touch allowed him to score on Martin Brodeur (from a sharp angle); his second goal of the game, giving New York a short-lived 3-2 lead.
You can see Tavares’ goal in the video starting at the 1:35 mark.
He is turning into the complete package and he could eventually go down in history as the guy who led the Islanders charge out of NHL obscurity and back to NHL relevance. I can assure you that he will be the next Isles captain, that’s a lock. One of the first things I noticed when talking with Tavares’ was his maturity, meaning his thoughts were direct and concise, he wasn’t stuttering, he wasn’t using a lot of “ums” & “you knows,’ in fact he didn’t use any; he was satisfied with the win, but his excitement was tempered because he knows there is still a lot of work to do to get the Islanders back to the playoffs and respectability, which basically go hand-in-hand.
“I push myself everyday to improve my game and get myself to the highest level possible with the best of the best. First and foremost I do it to help my team, the New York Islanders and help our team be successful; at the end of the day that is the ultimate goal — for us to be champions, to make the playoffs,” said the 22-year-old Tavares. “For myself, you want to push yourself individually, but like I said the main focus is to be at my best for my team and I know I’m the kind of guy that isn’t going to be satisfied with whatever I’ve done, I want to keep improving.”
JOHN TAVARES CAREER STATS:
2009-10: 82 games, 54 points (24g-30a)
2010-11: 79 games, 67 points (29g-38a)
2011-12: 82 games, 81 points (31g-50a)
2012-13: 7 games, 11 points (4g-7a)
Each year he has been in the NHL, Tavares’ game has evolved culminating with last season where he registered 81 points in 82 games. He has been everything the Isles and their fans could have hoped for when they drafted him with the first overall pick in 2009; and trust me he is only scratching the surface. Wait until you see where his game is at in five years when he reaches 27-years-old — in his first 250 NHL games he has picked up 213 points.
“It just feels like our expectations are growing and we really want to challenge ourselves to be better,” said Tavares. “I think more and more in practice, during games, off the ice, we keep talking about getting better, pushing ourselves and understanding it’s going to take that for a full season (this year 48 games obviously) to give ourselves a great chance to hopefully make the playoffs.”
Some say he is on the cusp of being an elite player, but I say he’s there already. The numbers speak for themselves, but when you see his game day after day, you see how much stronger he has gotten. You see how dominant he becomes when the puck is on his stick blade. You see the crisp, tape-to-tape passes he makes consistently game after game.
But this is just scratching the surface, and he’s humble enough to know that there is still room for improvement. “For me I’m trying to approach things the same way I always do, but obviously it’s a much shorter year. You want to start doing things well right away, and just keep improving on what I am doing overall play — whether it’s offensively, defensively — just keep getting better as a player and keep improving my strength; face-offs, D-zone coverage, goal scoring…all of those things,” he said after a three-point performance in New Jersey, a team he has historically struggled against. “I want to just keep improving my overall game and becoming as complete of a player as I can.”
The sky is the limit for Tavares, and sooner rather than later he will be considered a top-10 or even top-5 player in the NHL. In some people’s eyes, he’s already there, but before long everyone will know who no. 91 on the New York Islanders and just how talented he is.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.