When John Tavares was drafted, it was suggested that he was like Phil Esposito in his style in that he would set himself up in scoring position, receive the puck, and score. Is that the kind of player he is? Who are the ideal linemates for Tavares?
A large part of Espo's success lay in his linemates, Wayne Cashman and Ken Hodge. Their ability to dig the puck out and get it on his stick was critical to his large production totals. I have made a big deal out of the Cashman Count. Mighty Matt Moulson may well match Cashman's goal total, but I am not sure that he will ever match his assist and point totals. He is more of a pure goal scorer and thus may not be the ideal linemate for Tavares.
Presumably when Kyle Okposo returns, he will resume his role as Tavares' right wing linemate while Moulson remains on left wing. P. A. Parenteau may then wind up on another line. The question is: What will happen next year? Who should Tavares' linemates of the future be?
In the coming draft, the Islanders should find a way to move back up into the first round a second time and draft either Tomas Jurco or Victor Rask. Another possibility would be drafting Max Friberg in a later round. A player like that could be groomed to be Tavares' linemate of the future.
Who should it be now? Should Moulson continue on left wing? Should Parenteau be moved to left wing? Josh Bailey? Michael Grabner? Should the Islanders bring in someone else to fill that role in the offseason? Of course, Nino Niederreiter can play left wing and he might be good in that role. Patrik Elias would be terrific if Garth Snow could pry him away from Lou Lamoriello.
Another possibility might be Michal Handzus. It is unlikely that he will be re-signed with LA. He is not the player he once was, but with his size, experience, and playmaking ability, he might, along with Okposo, be able to create room for Tavares and put the puck on his stick with regularity for a few years until a Jurco or a Rask can assume that role.