John Tavares is the consensus best player available in this year's NHL Draft. Since he was 15, he was projected as the best player in the class of 2009 and as one of the league's next great players. Despite the pressure, he justified the hype - which, cautiously, has been somewhere on a level between Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby.
In 56 regular season games this season, Tavares led the Ontario Hockey League with 58 goals and 104 points. In 9 playoff games so far with London, he is 6-8-14.
If the Islanders are lucky enough to have their 48% come through at the NHL Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, they should immediately declare that John Tavares is their man.
There are several reasons, but two stand above all. In ascending order of importance:
2. The Islanders would be giving themselves an extra 72 days - during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no less - for the world to know John Tavares will wear an Islanders uniform when the season opens in October.
1. If you're going to ask Tavares to spend at least the next 15 years on your team and in your community, illustrate your commitment on Tuesday. Let him know you didn't even spend a second thinking about anyone else. He deserves that.
sleep 5You can say he's just a hockey player who wants to be in the NHL and isn't owed any promises, that he's a kid who'll go wherever he is assigned. That approach would be a monumental mistake.
John Tavares is a franchise hockey player, and the New York Islanders are a franchise with so much on the line. To say this is a special case is an understatement.
Take the leap of faith with him...immediately.
sleep 5If a decade from now it turns out Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene or Evander Kane or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson or Jared Cowan have a better NHL career, so be it. With the exception of Hedman, you can't find a scout to tell you anyone else comes close to matching the upside of Tavares. Please spare us the brilliant tactic of patiently surveying if a team will over-pay for the No. 1 while you grab Hedman or Duchene and a few extra picks. Really.
After everything the Islanders and their supporters have been through for large parts of the last two decades, do they really want to be the team that passed on Tavares? He could get at least 20 goals for the Islanders next season and climb the ladder from there. He would be the first offensive star the Islanders have had - and could keep for the entire prime of his career - since the legends of the dynasty.
The difference between the Islanders naming John Tavares as their cornerstone player on April 14 vs. June 26 is more than just two and a half months of moving a few thousand ticket packages and the Lighthouse conversation along. It's about doing right by a young man the Islanders are going to merely ask the world of.