Entering his 5th NHL season center John Tavares appears to be perched on the precipice, ready to take the leap to greatness.
It may be premature to say but his game has evolved along the way as his eagerness to learn and grow shows results. Not that his game was ever simply about points before; far from it. Tavares has been a strong leader on and off the ice since he came screaming onto the scene as an underage junior granted special “exceptional player” status by the Ontario Hockey League – en route to becoming the youngest player ever drafted into the OHL.
During his time in that league he shattered all expectations, winning Rookie of the Year honors and being named Player of the Year twice. was named MVP of his second World Junior Championship games, his second consecutive gold medal. He set the record for most career goals. He graduated as a blue-chip, can’t-miss prospect. And he hasn’t – missed, that is. Here’s a quick look at what his post-Junior days have held.
Tuesday’s tilt against Vancouver was Tavares’ 300th NHL contest. Since joining the Islanders full time in 2009 he’s tallied totals of 116 goals and 144 assists for 260 points, far and away the highest totals of his draft year. That’s good for 21st all-time on the Isles’ points list. Assuming he were to maintain the same pace over the next 300 (which seems unlikely), he’d have 520 in 600 – good for 9th all-time. But if he improves to a point a game – a modest goal – over the next 300, that’s 560, just six shy of sixth-place Lafontaine (who registered 566 in 530 games).
That sounds pretty good. But a Point-per-game average is about the least the Isles can reasonably expect from Tavares during his prime years, even in the current lower-scoring NHL. So far this year he’s got 11 in 9 games, just slightly over a 100-point pace (1.22 PPG). that would equal 367 over the next 300 for 627 – fifth on the list, behind just Trottier, Bossy, Potvin and Gillies. That’s some pretty lofty company.
He’s not just cherry-picking points with easy assists, either – Tavares is a goal-scorer, and sits 22nd on the goals list. At his current pace he’d end the season with 36, which would put him one ahead of Pierre Turgeon for 14th all-time. Another 40 next season would put him within spitting distance of the top ten, just back of Tonelli, in just his 6th season.
He’s signed through the end of the 2017-18 season, so there should be no contract issues or distractions over that period. To date he has missed a total of three games in his NHL career, so staying healthy doesn’t appear to be a problem. The team is growing and maturing together as a unit, which can only be good for point production across the board. The figures here are, in all likelihood, the bare minimum we can expect to see. All of this, mind you, before his 28th birthday.
It’s all speculation at this point, of course. But even speculation is a welcome change from years of little more than wishful thinking.