Destination Promise Land: Islanders' Journey Begins with John Tavares

Ryan KennedyContributor IJune 9, 2009

OSHAWA, ON - JANUARY 14:  John Tavares #91 of Team Orr skates in the 2009 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game against Team Cherry on Wednesday January 14, 2009 at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario. Team Orr defeated Team Cherry 6-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The most exciting thing a young NHL prospect could hope for is being a projected first-round draft pick.

Going first overall is just about the only thing that tops it.

That is the likely future for one John Tavares, the offensive dynamo of Canadian junior hockey.

Tavares began his OHL career early at the age of 14 after being considered "exceptional" enough to start his junior career early. Tavares went on to break one of Wayne Gretzky's records for goals in a season that year.

Since then, Tavares has only gotten better. He is slowly but surely becoming a more complete hockey player. Tavares has world-class offensive skills, both as a playmaker and a goal scorer.

One of the only knocks against him is his skating, believed by many to be what will ultimately separate him from the Sidney Crosbys and the Alexander Ovechkins when he breaks into the NHL.

The New York Islanders currently hold the first overall pick for this year's draft. There has been speculation that they may trade down. Other rumors have them picking giant defenseman Victor Hedman of MoDo hockey in Sweden. 

They would be fools to do anything other than pick John Tavares in this draft. Naturally, he's No. 1 for a reason—his natural talent. But there's something else that puts him over everyone else.

He gets it.

Tavares wants to win Stanley Cups. He wants to be better. He wants to be a winner no matter what.

Speculation led the hockey world to believe for a while that Tavares wants nothing to do with the Islanders organization. Tavares himself put those rumors to rest recently by uttering the words "I want to be an Islander."

General Manager Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang actually went to see Tavares play at one point during the year. That spoke volumes to Tavares about how much this organization cares for its players.

It didn't end there. Tavares stayed with Garth Snow for three days recently during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and even had breakfast with Islanders center Doug Weight.

It seems like a match made in heaven. Tavares wants to be an Islander. The Islander organization seems to like Tavares. What is most important is the city wants Tavares.

This organization needs a franchise name like Tavares to watch every night. Bringing Tavares to Long Island will give this team new life, and hopefully get the Lighthouse project finally underway.

"But wait!," say skeptical Islanders fans.

"The Islanders need a big name defenseman just as much as they need a high scoring forward, right? Tavares is a weak skater anyway. Go for Hedman."


Tavares understands what he needs to do. He wants to become a better skater. He wants to be just as good defensively as he is offensively.

Tavares wants to be the total package for this Islanders team. It's almost as if he loves the idea of starting this franchise from scratch, himself being the starting point.

"Yeah, that's all fine and dandy, but I watched Tavares in the playoffs. He wasn't great. He was just good," they say.

So Tavares had a less than stellar playoffs? Big deal.

Brian Burke of the Maple Leafs said it best.

"If his playoff performance is going to turn teams away from choosing him and ultimately see him fall a few places at the draft, that's totally fine with me," said Burke.

Any GM with the opportunity to draft Tavares would be silly to pass on him.

The Islanders need Tavares. From a professional standpoint, I think when Garth Snow and Islanders management say they're "looking at all their options for the draft," that's just what they have to say.

Deep down, I don't think there's any doubt that John Tavares is their guy.

There's no doubt in my mind the Islanders need other pieces to move forward, but this all begins with John Tavares.

Drafting this young man will bring new life to this once-great, now-dying franchise.

They have some pieces with winger Kyle Okposo, center Josh Bailey, defenseman Mark Streit, and hopefully (if healthy) goalie Rick DiPietro. Adding John Tavares, to me, seems like adding four pieces to the puzzle at a time.

Adding John Tavares, and maybe some other minor additions and changes, and this Islanders franchise will be a playoff contender once more and finally return this former dynasty to the promise land.

Besides, who doesn't want to see a power play line of Bailey, Okposo, and Tavares?


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