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Call to The Hall: New York Islanders

Welcome to LWOS Hockey’s summer series, Call to the Hall, where we take a look at the next great player from each NHL franchise to get called to the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are a few caveats, the player must be active, and must have played 300 games (or 150 for goaltenders) with the franchise.

Check out the previous Call to the Hall articles HERE.

When you think of the New York Islanders, you think of perennial disappointment. They’ve had only seven playoff appearances, all first round exits, in the past twenty years. But since drafting John Tavares first overall in 2009 and management starting to build a proper team around him, they have two playoff appearances in three years. Tavares is a huge reason for this recent surge. He’s still just 24 but shows no signs of stopping.

Call to The Hall: New York Islanders

Tavares played his entire Juniors career with the Oshawa Generals and the London Knights  in the OHL, being drafted 1st overall in the OHL draft after being given “exceptional status”, allowing him to be drafted at 14 years old instead of the usual 15. He earned his exceptional status through his four years of junior, racking up 215 goals and 433 points in 247 games. He broke the OHL record for most goals scored in a career by 2 goals, which was previously held by Peter Lee since 1975-76 with the Ottawa 67s.

Since being the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Tavares has put up 401 points in 432 games and 11 points in 13 playoff games.  He started his career playing with then 38 year old veteran Doug Weight while also living with his family. In his NHL debut, he scored a goal and had an assist versus former first overall pick, and constant comparison, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  On a failing team with shoddy goaltending, Tavares still managed to lead the team in points with 54. Despite his impressive rookie year, he did not win the Calder Trophy, instead going to the Buffalo Sabres standout defenseman, Tyler Myers.

Over the next two seasons, he put up career numbers, 29 goals and 67 points in 2010-11 and 31 goals and 81 points in 2011-12 but the Isles still were unable to reach the postseason, mainly due to the gaping hole in the crease. In 164 games spanning 2010-2012, the Isles employed 8 goalies and all but one, Evgeni Nabokov, had a losing record, and Nabokov’s was hardly a record to happy about, a 19-18 with a GAA of 2.55 and a SV% of .913.

It was the 2012-13 lockout that helped the Isles and Tavares see some postseason time, going 24-17-0-7 in the shortened 48 game schedule. Tavares had 28 goals, third in the league, and 47 points. He had 3 goals and 5 points in 6 games before the Isles fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. He started off the next year with promise along with being named the 14th captain in Islanders history and was doing just that before going to play for Team Canada in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In the offensively dry quarterfinal game versus Latvia, Tavares got injured with a torn meniscus in his knee and was forced to shut down for the rest of the year, finishing the 2013-14 NHL season with 66 points in 59 games and leaving the Isles without a top offensive force to make a push for the playoffs.

The 2014-15 regular season was a great one for both Tavares and the Islanders. He potted a career high 38 goals and 86 points while the Isles put up their first 40 win season in 9 years, going 47-28-7 and scored the most goals with 252 in franchise history since the 1993-94 season. They were also tied for second in goals scored in 2014-15.

Tavares has shown he will be a great centerman in the NHL for years to come and at just 24 years old, he has 401 points in 432 games played. With the Islanders built like a proper team now, they are starting to look like a dangerous team come spring time and the contributions of Tavares are a big part of that. So it’s without much debate that should Tavares keep up this level of production over his career, he would be a first cast ballot on first chance. His success in International hockey also will give him a good push to make the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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