John Tavares is arguably the best first rounder the Islanders have drafted since Pat LaFontaine. Even there though, the young LaFontaine at least had the pleasure of playing with some of the greatest players to ever put on Islander Jerseys. JT has led the team in points while helping to make stars out of AHL lifers Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau. While his first season he at least had some blueline help from Mark Streit, this year the top defensive pairing has been former 6th rounder Andrew MacDonald and Rookie Travis Hamonic.
Yet these last two years JT's play has been overshadowed by both Moulson and Michael Grabner. Both have amazing stories and it's easy to see why the media has picked up on the two underdogs. But it's hard to discount what JT has done. He is the first Islander in almost a decade (last being Yashin) to lead the team in points in back to back seasons. He is the first Islanders draftee to lead the team in points in back to back seasons since Zigmund Palffy. Only Potvin, Trottier, Bossy and Stefan Persson had more points in their rookie and sophomore seasons. Behind him are such greats as Gillies, Billy Harris and Tonelli.
The Olympics last season and JT's slight from this year's All-Star game means we haven't gotten to see him play alongside some of the best players in the game. More than a few players have made a huge mark from appearing at the All Star Game, enjoying the high quality linemates, questionable defense and lack of clutch and grab to put on an offensive show. The thought led me to the question of who would you like to see playing with Tavares, with the one caveat being it would have to be realistic (so no Crosby, Ovechkin, etc)?
Okay, so Rick Nash might be a bit far fetched considering that he's the franchise in Columbus. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the team has been largely ho-hum their whole existence. Their one playoff appearance was on the back of an insane season by Steve Mason that he's been unable to replicate. While Nash had a breakout 41 goal seasonin his second year, he's become a much more rounded player able to dish it out as much as he scores. I'll admit I don't follow the Western Conference much beyond the Canucks, but I have almost never heard of his linemates. This season he played nearly 40% of all shifts with Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek. He played another 10% of the time with Kristian Huselius and Antoine Vermette. Voracek seems to be his most common partner and he finished the season with 14 goals and 32 assists.
Ignore that this is Brian Elliot and watch Nash power the puck past him with his backhand:
Could you just imagine combining that with JT's incredible vision and ability to thread the needle with some of his passes?
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's been around here for any amount of time. Last year there were rumors that Jarome Iginla was looking for a trade out of Calgary. While his first choice probably wouldn't be the Islanders, with the team in need of leadership and maybe one piece away from the playoffs he would be a good fit. Iginla is one of those never say die type players, with a laser cannon for a shot and just about everything you could ask for from a player. At 33 he still has some good years left, and with a Suter at the helm in Calgary you never know what Brilliant moves will come out of there.
So who are your dream linemate/s for John Tavares?