For the last several years, the hockey world, especially Toronto, has been watching John Tavares rule over the OHL.
With a bending of the rule, Tavares was allowed to join the Ontario Hockey League as a 14 year old (his birthday was just after the cut-off date). He came in and scored 45 goals his rookie season. His next season, he broke Wayne Gretzky's goal scoring record with 72 goals in 67 games. Since then, he had been the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL draft.
As years passed though, many scouts started to pick apart his game. Some say he isn't a good skater. Some say he only plays in the offensive zone and doesn't care to play defense.
Some say he's invisible for most of the game, but will have spurts where he will skate circles around defenders. No one seems to doubt his scoring ability, but maybe his work ethic.
In the last year, one player, Victor Hedman, has entered the picture, and rightfully so. At 6'6" and 227 lbs., Hedman has been said to be a mix between Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom. He's huge, but he can skate around another team effortlessly, and he handles the puck with the best. He's what many call the most sure thing in this draft and a player who a team can and should build a team around.
But within the last few weeks, one more player has joined the discussion on who will become the first player taken in the 2009 draft. His name is Matt Duchene.
He doesn't have the pure goal scoring ability of Tavares or the size of Hedman, but many have called him the most complete player in the draft. Unlike Tavares, his skating is one of his strong points. He plays a solid defensive game, and can skate around the opposition with his speed while beating the other team's goalie with any one of his very impressive moves.
He handles the puck like a pro and has incredible vision on the ice. His stats may not seem that impressive compared to Tavares, but this season in the OHL, he scored 31 goals and had 48 assists in 57 games.
One of the most respected scouting groups of prospects, the Red Line Report, had Hedman as No.1, and Matt Duchene ahead of Tavares (two and three respectfully). Another major scouting service, the ISS (International Scouting Service), came out with their new rankings today, and have Tavares as No. 1, but Duchene moving from fourth overall to second, ahead of Hedman. So right now, who knows who will go first?
More than likely, he will be going to the Colorado Avalanche with the third overall pick (which would be fine by Matt, since he grew up a Colorado fan) and would be the successor of one of his boyhood idols, Joe Sakic, who he has been compared to.
But to show how equal he may be to Tavares, Matt has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 14 playoff games. Tavares has 21 points in 14 games.
As an Islander fan, I'm still hoping the Islanders draft Tavares because of what he could mean to this once proud franchise. He'd be, hopefully, their best pure goal scorer since Mike Bossy, and he'd help sell seats and fill up the building.
Maybe, just maybe, he would help the Lighthouse Project pass through Nassau County and keep the Islanders on the Island.
But if by some chance the Islanders feel Duchene is the better bet, I wouldn't be heartbroken if the Islanders trade their pick for Colorado's third overall (and maybe next year's first-round pick?) and take Duchene.