The Loneliest Man in the World? Hardly.
It's got to be tough to be John Tavares. Extremely talented from a young age, he continually got exceptions in order to play above his age level. He was also under media scrutiny from a young age due to that talent. Then to finally get to the pinnacle of hockey, the NHL Draft, and the "sad sack" Islanders are holding the first overall pick.
Yet never a bad word was spoken by JT about the Islanders, no claims that he wouldn't show and no drama -- no matter how hard Canadian sports tabloids tried to manufacture it. Which is how JT's stint on Long Island can be described so far, a lack of drama which is much appreciated. All this while blowhard GMs in Canada continue to try to stir the pot.
Although JT isn't the most exciting player when it comes to interviews or on the ice, there is something to be said for that. His interviews are exactly what you would expect from a long-time athlete who has been under intense media scrutiny. Never once have I doubted that JT wants to be an Islander for a long time and hopes to be a key part of this teams turn around. While many hockey media paint JT as that talented kid who is stuck in a dump waiting to jet out at first chance, some of them do recognize something special is going on.
While previous first overalls Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane went to teams with top flight talent to help bring them along, Tavares has played with two relative unknowns. Yet he has helped turn Matt Moulson into a back-to-back 30 goal scorer and P.A. Parenteau from obscurity to a 50-point season. During that time he hasn't been a slouch, putting up back-to-back 20 goal seasons, a 54-point rookie season and 67-point sophomore season.
Now with the additions of Brian Rolston, Nino Neiderreiter (possibly) and return of Mark Streit there's no reason to believe that JT can't top his total from last season. Even if Parenteau isn't on the top line again, someone talented is going to be there. Add to the mix the Micheal Grabner - Frans Nielsen one two punch and maybe even more offensive punch from Josh Bailey's line, and suddenly teams won't be able to key in on just stopping JT's line anymore.
Although JT has some flashes, you have to enjoy his steady game. His ice vision, his sight, his hard work in front of the net and even along the boards. It's not beyond JT to get down and dirty. You'd think this would have endeared him to the mostly working class Islander fans. But instead there seems to be even the occasional fan of the team claiming that he is a bust already. For them, I'm not sure what else JT could have done short of carrying the whole team on his shoulders and into the playoffs. While he's had his cold streaks, you could always tell that the talent was there.
Even if he never takes front and center on the mic, or in the locker room, John Tavares is the focal point of the rebuild. It might have actually worked out better for him in the long run that Moulson and Grabner pulled some of the spotlight away from him the last couple years. The NY spotlight can be hell for a youngster, especially someone that people might be expecting the world from.
It feels like it's been a long time since an Islanders draft pick was this promising going into his third season. (Mostly because a bunch of them were traded before they ever got to their third season.) Rick DiPietro's first solid season was his third NHL season, but going into that season most people weren't expecting big things from him. JT should be able to net 30 goals this season, and if Grabner and Moulson continue their streaks it will be the first time the Islanders have more than two 30-goal scorers since 1993/94. That year Steve Thomas, Pierre Turgeon, Derek King and Benoit Hogue all finished above 30 goals.
Plus we beat some two-time defending Cup champion in a great seven-game series.