In the NHL, there is an elite forward group highlighted by names like Crosby, Ovechkin or Kane. And now a new name is up there on the list, that of Islanders star and captain John Tavares. If you’re an Islanders fan or up to have been up to date with the team, seeing this name at the top won’t surprise you. But for everyone else, the large portion of hockey fans, it was only last season when Tavares finally became a household name. When he was nominated for the Hart Trophy, he was recognized by the league as being in that elite class with fellow nominees Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. While he finished third in the voting, and many argue that he should have won, the recognition was finally where it should be for the young star.
Like I said, to Islander fans, this transformation comes as no shock. We’ve seen a first overall pick progress every single year, and improve every aspect of his game, to finally get to the point where he is now. Every summer he found something to tweak in his near perfect game, and comes back a better player every year. After a strong rookie season, when the only real criticism to his play was his speed he spent the entire offseason on the ice with his skating coach, and came back quicker than ever. After an improved performance in year two, he still wasn’t satisfied. He worked all offseason to become stronger and his all around skating improved drastically, becoming harder to take down. The fruits of his labor were really showing as he posted 81 points in 82 games in his 3rd NHL season. And yet he still wasn’t satisfied with his personal play, so he worked on goal scoring and shooting in the extended time off. In the 48 game lockout shortened season, JT found the back of the net 28 times, which was three less than his career high, and four back of the league lead.
And even with one of the best skillsets in the league and talent almost unmatched, the 23-year-old still wants to improve. He has an unquenchable thirst and an unsatisfied hunger. He won’t rest for even a minute until he wins the Hart Trophy and isn’t just a nominee, or wins the Stanley Cup instead of merely making the playoffs. Even then, who knows? John Tavares has a work ethic that is unmatched by any other in the league. The sky is the limit with this kid, and he hasn’t even tapped into his limitless potential.
So now back to the question I pose in the title, how good can he be? Starting on a small scale, Johnny will be among the top three players in the league for the next decade. Whereas Alex Ovechkin is now in his prime, and has presumably reached the pinnacle of his game, Tavares is still five years away from entering into what is considered to be an athletes prime. Increasing the scale, when Tavares finally hangs up his skates, he will be, without question, the best player in the history of the New York Islanders. In a franchise that has included Pat LaFontaine, Denis Potvin, Brian Trottier and Mike Bossy, John Tavares will eclipse all of these greats. Statistically, I have no doubt that he will be the franchise leader in points, goals and assists. And to put him on that plateau with the greats of the dynasty, John will lead the Isles to at the very least one Stanley Cup Championship in his tenure as captain. So then the highest scale, and the most important, is the All-Time ranking of John Tavares. Like I said, I have no doubt that he will eclipse Brian Trottier for the franchise points lead, which would put him in the top fifteen all-time right there. 600 goals is attainable for him, putting him in elite company, and well over 900 assists to boot.
At a minimum, I see Tavares ending his career with 1500 points, placing him around the likes of Esposito and Bourque among the all time greats of the league. His talent is unmatched, his potential is untouched, and his talent is underrated. The majority of the league has still yet to recognize the special hockey player that he is. John Tavares, when its all said and done, could easily rank in the top 10 all time for the NHL, and if you look closely enough, you just might realize it.
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