The first couple of seasons Tavares played, there was no doubt he was a great player. But it would've been absurd to compare him to the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. And I mean a healthy Crosby.
But this year, he's evolving into that superstar all Islanders fans knew he had in him. But I don't think he's reached his roof yet. This year, though, he's taking big strides in proving he's just as good as the best in the league.
In 46 games, he has 19 goals, 29 assists and a plus-two rating. Not bad for playing on a team that struggled early on. That's 48 points, averaging over a point per game.
He currently holds the longest scoring streak in the NHL, at 12 games. During that span, he has 21 points. And he doesn't show any sign of slowing down.
He's so strong on the puck, he knows where and when the right play is and he scores goals. Whether they be deflection, tip in, rebounds, a shot from the point or even a puck out of mid-air, Tavares gets it done.
Tavares makes his linemates better as well. Don't get me wrong, Matt Moulson deserves a lot of credit for his 22 goals and 21 assists. But Tavares is also a big part of that. Tavares is also highly responsible for the rejuvenated Kyle Okposo. After a horrid start to the season, which saw him benched three straight games, Okposo has 11 goals and 13 assists now.
His teammates and coach have taken notice of Tavares' strong play lately.
According to Yahoo, Jack Capuano said, "He's playing with a lot of confidence, his will to compete, his will to want to help this team...I think it's carrying over to some of our other guys right now."
From the source of Islanders TV, in a postgame interview, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said, "Johnny is an evolved force out there...with Johnny's skill and his talent, it shows up."
There's almost no more ways to argue it, but Tavares is becoming the caliber of guys like Ovie, Crosby and Stamkos. He may not get 50 goals this season, but he will in the next few years. He is still en route to about 85 to 90 points, which is incredible.
He may not be the caliber of said superstars yet, but there's no doubt he's on his way.