Well – the kid started and finished the year strong. It was the middle that was an issue.
Being the #1 pick in the draft is a big undertaking. For JT – he was projected the #1 pick since he was 13 years old. With four years of junior under his belt, JT was the number one pick for the Islanders last year. If he was going to probably any other team, there would have been fan-fare beyond belief, and notoriety all over North America.
However, he was drafted by the ‘who gives a flying flip’ Islanders, he immediately became a ‘yawn – who cares’ player. Believe you me, if he went to Toronto (as Brian Burke thought he MUST go….), a shrine would have been constructed in downtown Toronto.
JT started off quickly, going at a point a game pace in the first 20 games of the season. Playing with Matt Moulson – his old neighbor and shinny partner – there was a great deal of comfortability that made the first few months easy for John. Once December hit – the slumps began. No goals in nearly 20 games. He looked like he was squeezing his sticks too hard, and really struggled with his game.
But JT did not make excuses. He kept his head up, answered every question that was brought to him, and had a great attitude about him. The Olympic break in February was a chance for him to get away from the game, and allowed him to relax.
Within a week or two after the Olympics were over, the game came back to #91.
And then some…
I was in Vancouver when he got 5 points in one game. He finished the season well enough to be in the top 5 in rookie scoring with 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points, which also led the Isles in points. His -15 was improved from a low of -22. 11 of his 24 goals were on the power play, and spent 22 minutes in the box. His 189 shots will hopefully increase by a good deal next season, as his confidence grows.
This spring, he led the World Championships in goals with 7, despite having a fracture in his foot. As of the start of mini-camp – he is back on the ice, and working on his conditioning and strength for the upcoming season. The needs for JT are simple:
1. Getting stronger on the puck
2. More shots
3. Being able to get a solid 2-way game
Many are expecting a Steven Stamkos type 2nd season. I am not bringing the goals that high for him, but I can see 30-35 goals this season as potential for 2010-11. With continued maturation of the other young players on this Islander squad, I can see a lot of potential for 10-11 for JT.
As far as a grade is concerned, I will give Tavares a solid B. The first 20 and the last 15 would have been a A-, and the 45 in the middle would be a C-. I expect a great deal more from him, and I think he does too. The question is will he get it done. I will definitely look forward to checking it out.